Book Reviews

Book Review: Room

roomWith “Room” now available to watch on DVD, we thought you might like another chance to read our book review! There are several copies available to borrow from the Information Store.

Film adaptations can fail miserably if they leave out crucial plot points, and Room is a novel that’s all about small details. Room has been written for the screen by its original author Emma Donoghue, and will be released later in 2015 starring Brie Larson from 21 Jump Street. Room was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the Man Booker Prize, and the film is sure to get a lot of attention- find a copy in the BOOK ZONE (823.914 DON) and decide for yourself if it’s worth the hype!

Room is narrated by Jack, a five year old who thinks the room he shares with his mother Ma is all there is in the world. Ma is the prisoner of Old Nick, a seemingly normal man who kidnapped her from college and quickly made her pregnant through repeated rape. In an attempt to make Jack’s life less frightening, Ma teaches him to read and bargains with Old Nick for books and crayons- when Nick’s away she teaches Jack to shout for help, bang on the walls and try to crack the locks, as if their life inside is one long game. Jack is hidden from Old Nick when he comes to torment Ma, so he has never met another human being. His friends are Dora the Explorer (though Ma limits his TV time), Bed, Plant, Spoon and Melted Spoon. When Ma tells stories, he becomes Prince Jackerjack- when Ma’s depression overwhelms her, he cares for both of them.

Jack is integral to Ma’s escape plan, but she has kept him sane by teaching him precisely nothing of the outside world. Once he’s out, he needs to attract attention, but other people are hard for Jack to understand. Ma’s life will be in danger- Old Nick will be on the hunt- and Jack will be surrounded by doctors, police and the press. Can he lead them back to a room he has never seen from the outside?


Emma Donoghue was inspired to write Room by the horrific Fritz case in 2008. The tendency of humans to overlook or try to explain events that we find strange can sometimes mean abuse goes undiscovered for many years. Rare crimes like kidnapping attract press attention and the survivor’s stories only reach the public through journalists and ghost writers. Jack recounts his exceptional day-to-day life in stark prose, slowly revealing the horror that Ma has to live with. His confusion on discovering the outside world is almost more painful to watch- Room is home to Jack, and he may be unable to say goodbye.

 For more stories about kidnap and bravery, try:

Noughts and Crosses (BOOK ZONE 823.91 BLA) is a young adult novel in which a light-skinned militia kidnap the daughter of a black politician, in an attempt to change the laws which segregate the lower-class Noughts from the ruling Crosses. Sephy’s relationship with her kidnapper Callum is highly complicated and the fallout from the kidnapping in explored in a further three novels, all of which received high praise. Noughts and Crosses was adapted for the stage by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2008, with Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden playing the role of Callum.

noughts and crosses

Man on Fire (2004) (DVD LOBBY 791.43) is an 18-certificate film about a nine year old girl who is left in the hands of her kidnappers by corrupt police officers. The ex-assassin who was acting as her bodyguard attempts to take down everyone responsible, believing he will earn redemption for his past crimes. Man on Fire is adapted from a book of the same name, and was previously filmed in 1987.

man on fire

Empire of the Sun (DVD LOBBY 791.43) was adapted from J G Ballard’s novel by Tom Stoppard and filmed by Stephen Spielberg in 1987. A young English boy living in Shanghai is found by the invading Japanese army and interred in a camp for the last years of WWII. He survives by making friends with both the Japanese pilots and their captive American servicemen.

empire of the sun

Room the website is a point-and-click game: click on a crayon drawing to watch a short film, read about Emma Donoghue’s ideas for the novel and answer some questions about the issues raised in Room


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