Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Room - book review

by Emma Donoghue

You get two reviews for the price of one today. I am taking a look at Emma Donoghue's popular Room, and Belle's Kindle on which I read it.

(Because I read this on a Kindle this is the first time I have seen the cover!)

Room put me in mind of the 2008 Josef Fritzl case in Austria, but I am sure there are other similar tragedies the world over.

Like my recent review of The Book Thief, this story is told from an unusual perspective. This time its spoken with the voice of a 5 year old boy, born and raised in captivity by his mother who was abducted at the age 19. I particularly liked the use of a very limited vocabulary and perspective in the opening chapters to set the scene, a style which then broadened and deepened, becoming more eloquent as the book progressed, but still retaining the essence of the 5 year old.

The first half of the book focuses on life in captivity. The routines, the restrictions and the absence of control. You sense the desperation of Jack's mother as she recognises the peril of her son growing older and the pressing need to escape. When this happens so soon in the book you thing "so what is the second half of the book about?".

Well, the second half deals with coming to terms with life "outside". Life where  reality beyond a 12 ft box it isn't just TV images. Where things hurt and are scary. The joint perspectives of both a young mother who has been locked away for several years and a boy who has known nothing different offer an interesting contrast. Both have struggles to overcome, as do the extended family who have to come to terms with their daughters sudden reappearance and the presence of a son fathered by the captor.

In the end it isn't a "they all lived happily ever after" tale. They struggle, they despair, they progress and they leave us with hope but without certainty - they rejoin society.

Its a compelling but slightly harrowing read. The subject matter is in no way pleasant but in the end it is more a story about overcoming the obstacles than the horrors of abduction and incarceration.

As for the Kindle? I would give it a guarded thumbs up. The technology didn't offer the sort of barrier I feared, but on the other had it wasn't exactly a step forward in enhancing the reading experience.

Reading from a tablet was ok, and turning the "pages" by was intuitive. However, it was odd not to be able to gauge ones progress by the number of pages read and the % completed function wasn't quite the same. The things I really missed were the ability to jump to the synopsis at any point and get the big picture part way through. I also missed the ability to skip back pages to clarify who did what at will. I am sure that there are technical methods for overcoming these drawbacks, but they were not obvious.

But, and as they say, its  big but, there is one overriding benefit. The Kindle is nearly to books what the i-pod is to music. The huge benefit is the ability to hold hundreds of books on the unit and access many more via the internet at a very reasonable price. Take a Kindle on holiday with you and you will never have to resort to that tatty pile of Danielle Steele left behind by previous holiday makers. Its this versatility which makes the Kindle a winner, especially for boaters for whom space is at a premium.

I would describe myself as a cautious convert.

1 comment:

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One of the most touching books I've ever read, Room is very poignant. The most ingenious tool used by the author is the narration. The whole story is narrated by the child himself, and how he sees the "world" around him. The innocence is very touching.
Though sometimes the book may seem to drag on, but the end effect is simply fabulous.