x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Emma Donoghue's Room has a captive audience

Emma Donoghue, who was inspired to write this novel after reading about children born in captivity, achieves much within tight constraints.

The two hardest challenges a fiction writer faces are moving a character from Point A to Point B and sustaining a narrative point of view, particularly the first person PoV of a child. Roddy Doyle's Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha succeeds at the latter; Laurence Sterne with the former in Tristram Shandy. Emma Donoghue, an Irish writer living in Canada, accomplishes both in imagining the life of a five-year-old boy born in captivity and living with his mother in an 11-foot-square room. Told entirely from young Jack's perspective, Room moves from tenderness tinged with uneasiness (we discover relatively early on why the pair are caged in), then to outright horror before arcing back to tenderness. It would be too easy to hold up Room as an extended metaphor for all of life's restraints or confinements. The simple truth, one much harder to swallow, is that Donoghue was inspired to write the novel after reading about children born in captivity. Room, in a way, is their story, their challenge, and Donoghue is our sure-footed guide to understanding what their life is probably like.



Emma Donoghue

Little Brown & Co