Monday, December 12, 2011

The Claustrophobia of "Room"

I am prepared to be the only person who doesn't like Emma Donoghue's book Room.  When it first came out, I said, "Hmm.  A woman held for years as a sexual captive, along with the child who is a result of this captivity.  And the book is narrated by the 5 year old child.  No thank you."

But then I read rapturous reviews.  And I heard Donoghue interviewed by Diane Rehm.  And I heard more and more people who loved the book.  So, I added it to my 2011 list of books to be read.

I've only read half of it.  Maybe it will get better.

Don't get me wrong:  I do admire what Donoghue has done.  By using the 5 year old as narrator, she avoids the trap waiting for writers who write about horrid crimes:  the readers turn into voyeurs.  And she seems to capture the voice and the mind of a 5 year old.

But it's not a voice I want to spend hundreds of pages with.  What's charming for 20 pages quickly turns exhausting.

I wondered if Donoghue intentionally spent so many pages in the world of the garden shed turned jail.  Once again, at first I found it a charming place, full of imagination, even as I was realizing how reduced its horizons were.  As I read the first half of the book, I started to scan it; I only need so many examples of how the mother and child have turned trash and tidbits into toys and imaginary companions.

I'll finish the book, since it's a quick read.  But I must admit that if I had picked up this book without the benefit of any reviews or interviews, I wouldn't have continued reading.

1 comment:

Karen J. Weyant said...

I read Room, too -- but wasn't as impressed as the critics. Good critique of the book.