« Room appartient à cette espère si rare, celle des vraies oeuvres d’art. Vous dire qu’il ne ressemble à aucun autre livre est pour moi le plus beau des compliments. Il suffit de décrire sa puissance, sa beauté sombre et pleine de révélations. » Michael Cunningham
Sur le point de fêter ses cinq ans, Jack a les préoccupations des petits garçons de son âge. Ou presque.
Il ne pense qu’à jouer et à essayer de comprendre le monde qui l’entoure, comptant sur sa mère pour répondre à toutes ses questions. Cette mère occupe dans sa vie une place immense, d’autant plus qu’il habite seule avec elle dans une pièce unique, depuis sa naissance.
Il y a bien les visites du Grand Méchant Nick, mais Ma fait tout pour éviter à Jack le moindre contact avec ce personnage. Jusqu’au jour où elle réalise que l’enfant grandit, et qu’elle ne va pouvoir continuer longtemps à entretenir l’illusion d’une vie ordinaire. Elle va alors tout risquer pour permettre à Jack de s’enfuir.
Mais l’enfant va-t-il réussir à trouver des repères loin de leur univers ? Quel accueil lui réservera le monde extérieur, lui l’enfant né de la captivité d’une femme ?
Room interroge la capacité de survie qui existe en chacun de nous, tout en célébrant les pouvoir du récit et du langage. Mais l’auteur résume magnifiquement son principal objet de réflexion : « Le drame essentiel de la parentalité : comment l’on passe d’un instant à l’autre du rôle de celui qui console à celui qui persécute, tout comme les enfants passent leur temps à illuminer notre vie et à nous rendre fous. J’ai essayé de saisir cette étrangeté et ce paradoxe. Devenir parent suscite les émotions les plus folles qu’on puisse ressentir. »
At the start of Donoghue's powerful new novel, narrator Jack and his mother, who was kidnapped seven years earlier when she was a 19-year-old college student, celebrate his fifth birthday. They live in a tiny, 11-foot-square soundproofed cell in a converted shed in the kidnapper's yard. The sociopath, whom Jack has dubbed Old Nick, visits at night, grudgingly doling out food and supplies. Seen entirely through Jack's eyes and childlike perceptions, the developments in this novel there are enough plot twists to provide a dramatic arc of breathtaking suspense are astonishing. Ma, as Jack calls her, proves to be resilient and resourceful, creating exercise games, makeshift toys, and reading and math lessons to fill their days. And while Donoghue (Slammerkin) brilliantly portrays the psyche of a child raised in captivity, the story's intensity cranks up dramatically when, halfway through the novel and after a nail-biting escape attempt, Jack is introduced to the outside world. While there have been several true-life stories of women and children held captive, little has been written about the pain of re-entry, and Donoghue's bravado in investigating that potentially terrifying transformation grants the novel a frightening resonance that will keep readers rapt.
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Room deserves all the accolades it has received from critics around the world. Donoghue has taken the all too common story of a woman kidnapped and imprisoned and turned it into a novel about the connection between a mother and a child and of survival and the human capacity to adjust. The novel is told from the point of view of five year old Jack. Room, an eleven by eleven foot space, is where Jack was born and the only place he knows. He knows there are other 'worlds' - he sees them on TV but they are 'Outside' and Room is his and Ma's.
We meet Jack on his fifth birthday and through his eyes we watch how he and Ma survive - by playing, singing, reading, talking, and most of all, from keeping Old Nick, their captor, from getting angry. Jack and Ma live in a tiny world with routines and habits, and for Jack, it is how the world is suppose to be. But when a series of events occur that changes everything, Jack and Ma must adjust and learn a new way to cope. So few books have created such a powerful character we can completely and utterly engage with, yet who provides us with a brilliant study in dichotomies. Given a different set of circumstances, Jack would be just a boy who, readers would abandon soon enough, but Jack's story, horrifying and uplifting, simple and complex, made it near impossible to turn away and put the book down.
Despite the potential pitfalls of such a young narrator, Donoghue makes it work brilliantly. Donoghue manages to balance the voice with keeping the story moving, preventing the reading from become bored with the perspective of a young child. Because Jack is safely inside the wardrobe when Old Nick comes at night, the focus is rarely on the kidnapper. Instead, the reader comes to understand the intensity of the relationship between Jack and Ma - they depend on one another for their survival – and see the effects of long term isolation - physical, mental, and emotional, on both of them. Perhaps most interestingly, we come to understand Ma's choices through his descriptions because we can understand the emotions and implications of the events even if the narrator cannot. There is an underlying horror at the conditions they face and the reality of the situation Ma is in, but it is softened because Jack has no frame of reference for it and does not comprehend all that happens around him. That he can cope is something of a miracle and a testament to our capacity to adapt.
Room is emotionally powerful and pushes us to rethink how we might respond to such circumstances. There is a moment that Donoghue could have left us with a simpler, happy-ever-after story, but she pushes past that to really explore how experience shapes us, defines us, and ultimately the world around us. The simple language that belies the complexity of the topics - isolation, media, consumerism, family, celebrity status and so many others - is a testament to the brilliant writing of Donoghue and her determination to tell the stories of those normally dismissed because they are different.
This novel is the best I've read this year, deserves multiple rereads, and is now among my favorites. A brilliant work of literary art that defies its premise.
It wasn’t in English
I bought the book, thinking it was going to be in English. It’s not. It’s in French?? How am I supposed to switch it to English??
Bought this book and all of the reviews and description are in English. Download it and it is not in English. What the heck?!?! This is so wrong.