Shortly after the Elisabeth Fritzl story broke, Emma Donoghue decided to write a story on how confinement could affect a child.
4/5 Picador Shortly after the story broke in April 2008 of Elisabeth Fritzl being trapped with her children in a basement for 24 years, Emma Donoghue decided to write a story on how confinement could affect a child. Donoghue likes dark subjects, but Room isn’t a gloomy novel – it’s written from the perspective of a little boy born into captivity. The twist: his mother is trapped with him. Otherwise, Jack is your average five-year-old who loves his toys, his cartoon friends (Dora the Explorer, Backyardigans, SpongeBob), his books and, most of all, the one real thing in his life, his mother, ‘Ma’. The crisis comes when he must return to a world that he thought was only true on TV. Will he be able to cope? Where will the psychological shocks be most acute? How will he view ‘Ma’ as a consequence?
Jack’s own questions are, of course, far more basic: how does my mum have a mum? Why are my cartoon pals not real any more? What is shopping? These naive interrogations affect the reader just as they do ‘Ma’, and we share the mutual plight of mother and son. By telling the story through Jack’s eyes and in his language, Donoghue manages to give her tale, and a truly horrendous scenario, a positive treatment while giving us a celebration of the freedoms we take for granted. A gripping, moving read. Danielle Goldstein