As promised, here is a review of Room by Emma Donoghue- which is on the Orange Prize 2011 Shortlist:
Told through the eyes of five year old Jack, Room is inspired by cases such as those of Elizabeth Fritzl and Jaycee Lee Dugard. Trapped in a shed with only his Ma for company since the day of his birth, Jack has absolutely no concept of a world outside Room.
Naturally, the novel is grim and disturbing at times: every evening comes the inevitable time when ‘Old Nick’ enters Room through the locked door and gets into bed with Ma whilst Jack hides in the wardrobe and counts ‘till he makes that gaspy sound and stops’. But the sickening is constantly balanced with the uplifting and the author has managed to salvage something honest and beautiful from the most suffocating of circumstances.
What makes the novel so convincing is the relationship between mother and son. Jack’s love for Ma shines through his narrative, despite his gradual realisation that Ma is lying to him and that there is indeed a world outside Room.
Jack’s voice is unique: as a 5 year old his words, often half formed and inarticulate, are striking and often poetical, and his language does progress throughout the novel – his fluency improves with his growing understanding of the real world.
In the second half of the novel the setting shifts to outside Room, and Jack is overwhelmed with a world that is infinitely bigger than eleven square feet. With a realistic yet hopeful ending, Ma gradually learns to come to terms with her past in Room. Although it is clear that they have a long way to go, there is a sense of release and closure when they return to Room for one final goodbye before finally resuming – or beginning – their lives.
It’s hard not to be moved by Jack’s voice: told in his words, the disturbing story is honest and innocent, creating a novel that is darkly beautiful. I can truthfully say that I have never read a book like Room; it is a novel which leaves you with a lingering feeling that something, somewhere within you, has changed.