Book Review – Room

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Book Review – Room

Category : Book Review

Author: Emma Donoghue

Year: 2010

Donoghue’s novel was adapted into the film Room in 2015, considered by many to be the second best film of the year behind Spotlight, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture.  Room was nominated for four Oscars, Brie Larson winning for Best Actress, so the movie version was a smash success.  I just got around to reading the book, which is based on real events around the globe, specifically a kidnapping case in Austria, while the movie is based in Ohio, where similar real events also took place.  The story is extremely sad, but ultimately hopeful, and the film did the novel justice, especially by sticking to the source material rather well.  But here’s a rare case where the movie is better than the book, the time restraints of cinema working in the plot’s favor instead of destroying its natural rhythm.

In a place called Room, Jack lives with his Ma. They and Old Nick, a man who comes at night sometimes, are the only people in existence. Everything else is just TV; animals, fancy foods, other humans. And outside Room is outer space, a vast sky of nothingness that, of course, isn’t safe. The things in the room are the only things that matter; Lamp, Bath, Sink, Wardrobe. This is Jack’s existence, and the locked door that Nick comes through might as well be a gateway to another dimension. Little does Jack know that he & his mother are captives in artificial space, that she once lived a normal life outside, and that Nick is not their friend. As times grow more desperate, Jack will be sent on a daring mission by his mother in order to earn their freedom, a quest that will take him outside for the first time, an event that will change his life forever.

Sometimes you like what you experience first when it comes to the book vs the movie, and sometimes one is simply better than the other.  In my experience, the novel is usually the better bet, but in this case the film outshone its inspiration, but that might be because the story was desperate to be shorter, not longer.  The first half of the book is inside Room, and that’s where it’s magic.  The writing works wonderfully from the perspective of a little boy, I love the use of his language, and you feel how trapped this pair is, one happily and one despondently.  It’s when they leave Room that the writing begins to feel tedious and unnecessary, like the point was already made and we don’t need to hear more.  The film was like that too; near perfect until Ma & Jack started living outside, by then it was time to wrap things up.  So the limitations helped the movie be better than the book, which started declining about halfway through and needed to be cut off sooner.  Still, it’s a powerful story and a well-orchestrated concept, a book club discussion read if ever there was one, and something I’m glad I picked up.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆