13 February 2011


"World is suddener than we fancy it."
From Room, by Emma Donoghue, in reference to a poem by Irish poet Dónall Dempsey.
  • Of the book itself I’m not sure what to think. It is at once gently written and surprisingly funny, but it must be a case of me having a taste for something else other than three hundred pages of narration by a five-year-old boy (with a five-year-old boy’s vocabulary) that I didn’t get to enjoy the novel as much I expected I would. Okay: I enjoyed it, but I don’t know if there’s anything I can take from it.
  • Which isn’t to say that Room isn’t a book worth reading, because it is. Jack, the narrator, is adorable. That he presents a “captive’s view of life” (NYT), and that this life is determined by a soundproofed, foam-insulated, 11-by-11-foot room — or dungeon, really (the story is inspired by the Elisabeth Fritzl case) — do not mean that Ms. Donoghue’s storytelling is in any way limited in its ambition. Or imagination. “I remember that story about the Nazi camp,” Jack says, “not a summer one with marshmallows but in winter with millions of persons drinking maggot soup. The Allies burst open the gates and everybody ran out, I think Allies are angels like Saint Peter’s one.”
  • There is also a very brief, very easy-to-miss gay kiss scene near the end of the novel — at a public library! — and of course Jack’s mother’s mother, or his grandmother, looks rather confused. Meanwhile the scene rolls right off Jack. Indeed, the world is suddener than we fancy it.

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