My next entry for Reading Ireland Month is a look at author Emma Donoghue with a review of her book Room and a look at the movie that was made from it, screenplay also by Ms. Donoghue.
Emma Donoghue is an Irish-born writer now living in Canada so we claim her as one of ours as far as CanLit goes. She was born and grew up in Dublin where she also attended university. She was awarded a PHD from Cambridge in England and spent a few years traveling back and forth between Ireland, England and Canada but moved to London, Ontario in Canada in the late 90s where she now lives with her family.
Her 2010 novel, Room, is told from the point of view of five year old Jack and it won many awards, shortlisted for a number of others including the Man Booker prize. Room is the only one of her books I’ve read so far, but I do own a copy of her recent book The Wonder, on my bedside table.
Book Review: Room is told from the point of view of 5 year old Jack. He was born in this room and raised there and aside from what he sees on television, which isn’t “real” to him, it’s all he knows. His mother was abducted when she was 19 and has been held captive in this room which was built into a garden shed, for 7 years. The man that took her comes most nights and rapes her.
We are taken through their days and nights, what they do, what they eat, how they cope. Jack is quite happy, and he’s very smart and articulate, though his grammar and sentence structure is still that of a young child so it takes a bit to get used to it. You can read between the lines from Jack’s observations about his mother and her reactions that he doesn’t always understand her reality.
Eventually they emerge from Room and the rest of the book is about them coping with the real world, still from Jack’s point of view. The outside world isn’t “safe” and it’s vast and unknown and filled with people and is overwhelming to him. Although Jack is very close to his mother, “Ma”, you can also see that she is trying to raise him to be his own person.
I liked the book very much, and it was one I had a hard time putting down. It’s touching, sad and happy, too.
Room: released in 2015
Emma Donoghue adapted the screenplay from her novel and captured the book’s essence quite well, I thought. You can’t always get inside the characters’ heads as easily in a filmed version of a book without the dreaded voiceover and she did it. She brought Ma and Jack to life, as believable people. She drew out Ma’s fear, sadness, desperation, frustration and insecurity and Jack’s innocence and joy, fear at the new world that overwhelmed him and his curiosity about it, too as both of them adapted to freedom.
The “Room” part of the movie is all from Jack’s point of view, with some of the freedom part of the movie from Ma’s point of view as she struggles to figure out who she is, dealing with the media and her family and trying to help Jack adapt and gain his own confidence. Mostly, though it’s Jack and the child that plays him, Jacob Tremblay, does an astonishing job for one so young. Brie Larson who plays Ma aka Joy plays it just right, too, first, with Ma’s determination to take back her life or at least give Jack a chance at one and then, with the weight of guilt, media attention, and post traumatic stress overwhelming her. She won the Oscar, a Golden Globe, a Critic’s Choice, a Screen Actors’ Guild and British BAFTA award for this role and deservedly so.
Emma Donoghue’s website.