Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Room by Emma DonoghueGenre: contemporary fiction
I got this book: from a book swap
First Published: 2010
I read this in: English, the original language
Number of pages: 406
Rating: 5/5


Room: What it is About

I’m using the description of here: “To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.”

Room: What I thought

5 stars (out of 5) I wasn’t sure I wanted to read a book on this subject and then, it being told by a five-year old didn’t appeal either. But this turned out the great book that everyone said it was. It’s not brilliantly brilliant, just a very good book.

Five-year old Jack was an innocent narrator who faithfully told all that happened around him, but interpreted everything with the understanding of a 5-year old. Therefore, some events might have been somewhat disturbing for the reader, but for Jack it was just as it was. This was very well done.

It was interesting to see how Jack was generally contented in his limited world. His mother hadn’t even told him that there was a world “out there”, so he wasn’t missing anything. Whatever he saw on television was not real. Only what happened in the room was real. I found this a very interesting idea. It suggested however, that Ma thought they would never be able to get out. So when they did, Jack was very unprepared for the outside world.

More than that, it seemed that Ma wasn’t prepared, either. She more or less held it all together inside Room, but once out, she couldn’t cope. This was one of the strong points of the book: it didn’t stop at the ‘good ending’, where Ma and Jack were free again, but it explored how free they really were and how they would cope outside. The idea that Jack was keen to go back to Room was very likely; it was an easier life and it felt like home for him.

A great read with lots to think about. Very convincing, too.

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

57 Responses to Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

  1. I’m so pleased that you loved this as much as I did. I read it a long time ago, but I still think about it.

  2. I glad you enjoyed this – I did too (and so did the rest of my family)! This book is certainly different, but really thought-provoking.

  3. Uniflame says:

    I loved this book as well! I had also doubts about the book being told by a 5 year old. But I thought it worked really well after I got used to it.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Uniflame, I think it helped that he described what people said word-by-word rather than translating it with his own limited understanding. Otherwise, it probably wouldn’t have worked. But this way, with his description of what people did, you could work out what was really happening.

  4. I’m glad to see you loved this book too, Judith. It took me a while to get used to the five year old’s voice, but once I did, I really lost myself in the story.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Marleen, I found the 5-year old voice better than I expected. I had expected to get bored by it, but that never happened.

      • When I started the book and during the first 20 or 30 pages I really did wonder if I could or wanted to read a whole book told in that voice. But I guess I got used to the voice after that and it didn’t bother me at all anymore. In fact, once I had finished the book I was sure that it was the right voice to tell the story in.

      • Leeswammes says:

        Marleen, I never really had a problem with the voice, except that I wasn’t sure I was going to like it for a whole book long.But it was just right.

  5. You loved it too – yay!! It worked so beautifully for just the reasons you said – we saw it all through Jack’s eyes. I am also dubious about reading books narrated by children but this one was fantstically done.

  6. Ally says:

    I have been planning to read this for quite some time, since everybody had only good words about it, so I am thinking that if I have the time, I may do it this year 🙂

  7. I still haven’t read this title, but am hoping to get to it sometime this year.

  8. I loved this when I read it but I picked it up knowing very little about it except all my friends on Goodreads were rating it 5/5. So if I’d known why they were in the room beforehand I think I may have enjoyed it less, I do like working things out for myself!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Ellie, I didn’t mind knowing why they were in the room – but I can understand that you might want to find out for yourself. I often don’t read the back of books just before I start reading them, because I’m worried finding out things that I don’t want to know yet.

  9. I know I’m alone in my opinion of Room but I really struggled with this book. I would have put it down if not for book club.

    The story lost me when jack played dead and was rolled in a rug. No way he’s dad isn’t going to look.. This wasn’t believable for me. Still annoys me 😉

  10. theveryhungrybookworm says:

    LOVE THIS BOOK. I think I read it in one sitting. Like, I didn’t move for a good day because of this story. It was so worth it.

  11. Aths says:

    I didn’t love this book so much, unfortunately, though for the most part, I liked it. I loved how the author explored the issue of boundaries, and how the mother tried to make a life for Jack. I had issues with the escape though, I believe that was the only sore thorn for me. Glad to read your thoughts.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Aths, sounds like you have the same problem with the book as Mari (in the comments above). I can see your point, but by then I was committed to the book and I didn’t care so much about the unlikely escape.

      • I think Donoghue may have done that on purpose. I think she wanted to write a book about the time in the Room as contrasted against suddenly being in the outside world. In order to get her characters from one place to the next there had to be an escape. Because she wasn’t writing a thriller or escape story she took a few short-cuts there, but I think it was only so she could get on with the story she wanted to tell. (I’m not sure how much sense this makes. I know what I mean, but am not sure how to say it).

      • Leeswammes says:

        Yes, I understand what you mean Marleen. I actually thought the story would be more about the escape and was pleasantly surprised it was more about the “happily ever after”.

  12. So glad you finally got around to this one. It’s very difficult to forget.

  13. lomaurice says:

    I had many issues with this one. Just can’t get past the topic.

  14. Trisha says:

    The narrator is what makes this book in my opinion. The voice is just so perfect.

  15. Corri says:

    Although I have downloaded it to my Kindle I still have not read it: the topic seems too close to the real event in Austria and somehow I cannot get started on it… However, I notice all the positive reviews, yours and your readers and so perhaps I must get over this hesitation!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Corri, *Room* is not that awful a read. I mean, some of the events are not pleasant, but because they are told by a 5-year old with no understanding of the situation, it’s very well bearable. Do give it a try! I was very reluctant too, I must say.

  16. Amy says:

    I felt the same way about this remarkable book. While reading it I experienced so many diffwrent emotions. I read it more than a year ago but I still think about it and remember scenes from it. I’m so glad you read and liked this book Judith!

  17. I am glad you liked this book too, Judith. I am sure if it had been told by an adult, it would have been very grim, and very hard to read.

  18. parrish says:

    This is a book I keep meaning to read, but others get in the way. Hopefully will luck upon a copy & then have no reason not to.

  19. Mystica says:

    I liked this book but found it very disturbing and very tense at times. Great imaginative writing though.

  20. Suzanne says:

    I agree with your point about it not being brilliantly brilliant. It is a well-told story, in my opinion made stronger by the fact that Jack narrates.

  21. Great review, i have this on my shelf and cant wait to start this 🙂

  22. I was also glad this one didn’t stop at the typical ending spot. The moments outside were just as affecting. I was deathly afraid to read this book as I have a small son, but Donoghue did a marvelous job.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Andi, yes, I also found the story outside very good, maybe even better than the first half because it’s not a happily ever after story, but one that seemed very likely.

  23. Alex says:

    “It’s not brilliantly brilliant, just a very good book.” <- completely agree. What I've discovered since I've read it in 2010 is that it's the book I recommend more often.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Alex, maybe because it’s written in an easy style, that many people will enjoy, while the topic itself has the same reactions to most people, so it’s something that many people will happily read.

  24. As one of the praises given, I was also wanted to finish reading it in one sitting. I really loves the idea of seeing things from Jack point of view. In which it was beautifully written. Honestly, it just another very good book to read.


  25. I thought this was so cleverly written, I read this recently and my review should be published soon. Still catching up after our last trip and now somewhat preoccupied by the weather we have been having!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Yes, it was a clever book, LindyLou. I especially liked that it went beyond the “happily ever after” because just getting out didn’t mean life was suddenly all roses.

  26. Pingback: Book Read! Room | The Books of Life!

  27. Lauren says:

    Good review on a great book. I thought it was very well done as well. Jack was such a great character and I enjoyed his voice. I just reviewed Room myself and I linked your review to mine.

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