Room review - what the reading group thought

03 August 2010

Peter Gallagher, from the Minster-in-Thanet reading group save Room, 'the definition of a page-turner' a 9/10 review. Read what he had to say.

 

My View of a Room

Score 9/10

Initially I was sceptical as to whether I would find this book too much of a 'Fritzl look-alike' and a repetition of the psychology/sociology hypotheses put forward by media-financed commentators in relation to recent cases of abduction/imprisonment.

Additionally, during the first few pages I was somewhat irritated by the switch between 'child-speak' and adult phraseology that a five year old would not use (albeit one with advanced literacy/numeracy skills) - it had to be one or the other. For me this was the book's only flaw inter alia.

But…that was it! A few pages more and I was enticed by the relationship between Jack and Ma, the menacing peripheral (at least to begin with) threat of Old Nick and the atmospheric claustrophobia created by the author. The ingenuity of Ma in establishing a 'normal' routine for Jack in these circumstances and the bond between herself and the child of her tormentor was believable and well-crafted. I quickly felt genuine concern for them both. I expected their incarceration to last until near the end of the book, so when their escape was planned I anticipated the worst. I reached that stage when I didn't really want to read about them coming to further harm, but had to continue to know their fate. Surely that is the definition of a page-turner?

Their liberation felt quite literally like a breath of fresh air. I was pleased the author did not resort to any fanciful prison break-out by Old Nick and further harm to either of the main characters. The following weeks of police, hospital and media attention were highly plausible, as were the reactions of relatives and loved ones.

I particularly enjoyed Jack's literal interpretation and commentary on adult language - for example when asked to 'sit tight', his thought was 'I'm not sitting, I'm standing'. It made me reflect on some of the nonsense we 'wiser' people have to use to get by in the world.

The establishment of Jack's desire to return to the Room as a response to his anxiety of the 'Outside' and his need to cling to Ma, familiar rituals and physical objects was achieved with great dexterity through the child's thoughts and comments without the need to patronise the reader. Similarly, his need to 'have some' at an advanced age during their captivity and Ma's wish to curtail this on release was wholly understandable in light of their journey from Room to Outside.

There was no 'padding' in the book. Every line was important to the story and character development. It is a swift read not because it is lightweight in any way - such a subject could not be - but rather because the author maintains momentum through the language and thoughts of the main characters. This is a book driven by dialogue rather than description and is a welcome change to some offerings in recent years that have been drowned in similes and metaphors in an attempt to add sophistication to threadbare stories. It will certainly find Room on my bookshelf.

Peter Gallagher, Minster-in-Thanet Reading Group

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