Room by Emma Donoghue (3/5)

I read through this book in one sitting, needless to say, it is a fairly easy and quick read but does contain some heavier themes. *spoilers do follow.*

The book is narrated through the eyes of a 5 year old boy with limited exposure to the world, but an astonishing vocabulary. And if you read the back of the book, then you already know it is about a kidnapped woman who is forced to live and raise her abductors child in a single room. Trapped in a room for the entirety of his life, the 5 year-old boy is never exposed to the outside world apart from television, and in an attempt to protect him from the horrors in which they live, his mother tells him the worlds he sees on the TV do not exist. He lives in a completely insulated world with only his mother and occasionally the abductor who comes in and rapes his mother (although he is unaware of what is happening and what rape means). Each night around the same time, he goes to bed inside the wardrobe sleeping hidden away from view in case “the man” comes. The boy is hidden from the man and although the man knows he exists, he doesn’t see him more than a few times because of his mother’s protection.

The first half of the book, takes place in the room and that makes for a dull story that the author drags out for just a bit too long, but the second half deals more with escaping the room and coping with the boys entrance into the newly discovered outside world. Although the mother is there throughout the book, she is largely a side note to the heroics of a 5 year old boy. It is just another book about how a male saves a female from the horrors of their life, with a spin on the way it is told.  The book aims to cover some pretty intense emotions, feelings, and ideas, but falls flat because of the narrative voice. I mean what exactly can a little boy say about the trauma suffered by his mother? Not much, and the author doesn’t attempt any such feat, but this is a misstep on her part because the mother’s story is as essential to the boys life as his own.

What I do think is interesting is again in this journey I have found a female author who has chosen to narrate through the eyes of a male protagonist. It makes me curious if any research exists as to what percentage of books by female authors contain predominantly male protagonists. I am curious because, representation of the female narrative could be even more limited than I initially thought, especially if the majority of books by female authors are also written and directed at male readers and male narratives. Briefly, JK Rowling has Harry Potter, Mary Shelley had Frankenstein, Ayn Rand had Howard Roark, Lois Lowry had Jonas, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor had Marty Preston and so on and so forth. When we have women writing in the voices of boys and men, are those characters less complete? Can male authors write complete woman into their books? These are questions that should be considered when we are reading literature where the author and the protagonist are of the opposite sexes. I don’t really have a conclusive opinion on this, but it is curious to me that people chose to write from a perspective with which they have no firsthand experience. I suppose you can argue that no person has first hand experience with a lot of fiction, but can the world be viewed the same way by woman and men given a patriarchal system?

Up Next: The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes

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