Room is the best book I’ve read this year. It tells the story of a woman who has been abducted and imprisoned in a single room. The book is narrated by her five-year-old son, Jack, who was born in captivity and protected from fear by his mother. On his fifth birthday she tells him the truth about their situation and Jack is shocked to discover that there is a world outside their four walls. His simple, happy life is crushed as they plot their escape and he realises that the world is much more complicated than he ever imagined.
I had heard a lot of hype about this book and wondered how it could possibly live up to the ravings I’d seen flying around the Internet. When I read the first few chapters I was a bit sceptical. The writing style took some time to get used to (five-year-olds have a very different way of looking at the world!), but once I grew to appreciate the truth about Jack’s life I was gripped. I read the whole book in a single day, unable to tear myself away from the pages.
Jack’s mother shelters him from reality so we have to read between the lines to see the horrors that she is subjected to, but I found the insight into our society more disturbing than the physical abuse. The book asks important questions about what makes us happy and the way we look after our children. In many ways it reminded me of Flowers for Algernon, another wonderful book that questions our values.
Room is easy to read and will have broad appeal. I’m sure I’ll be thinking about Jack for many years to come and I know that since finishing the book I’ve been looking at the way I spend time with my own sons slightly differently.
It is a modern classic that will continue to be enjoyed many years from now.
Will Room win the Booker Prize?
I would love to see Room win the Booker prize, but I’m not sure it will stand up to multiple re-reads. The joy is in the way it makes us look at the world around us - the things we take for granted and the way we often forget the simple pleasures of life. I’m sure it will become a best seller and it has a very good chance of winning the Orange Prize 2011, but I think a more literary novel will scoop the Booker this year.