Book Review: Room – Emma Donoghue

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“Scared is what you’re feeling. Brave is what you’re doing.”

Five year old Jack lives with his mother in ‘Room’, they play there, sleep there and learn there. Jack has never known the outside but his mother plans to make sure that he does soon. After being kidnapped Jack’s mother, simply named ‘Ma’, was imprisoned by her captor and rapist, she becomes pregnant with his child, which is is forced to bring up in the small room. For the first five years of his life, Jack has no idea that there is an outside, thinking that the TV is magical and there is nothing else. Until one day Ma makes a plan to escape, but she needs Jack’s help.

Copies of Room are everywhere right now, after Brie Larson’s oscar win, the film of Room has become a phenomenon. As with many great films though, a beautifully written novel is behind it. I read Donoghue’s novel a few years ago after it was recommended by a friend, I was absolutely blown away by it. The novel is an emotional read, there is no way around it but it also captures a world that hasn’t been considered before, the life of a child raised in captivity. The entire novel is seen through Jack’s eyes, as he tries to understand first that there is a world outside of the four walls he knows and then he has to try and navigate that world.

After their escape, which I read in a blur because I was so worried for little Jack through the whole part of the novel, both Jack and Ma need to adjust to a new world that they don’t know. Although we only see Jack’s perspective, Donoghue has also captured the effect that it has on Ma, after being away for so long. I think it’s more devastating because it is being seen through the eyes of her son, the only person she’s had in her life for years, as she tried to come to terms with what has happened to her and what will happen next. Donoghue is honest in the rehabilitation of these women and the hardships they face trying to go back into a society that has changed so much since they were last a part of it.

The plot mirrors some of the experiences of the big cases that have come out in the media where young women were imprisoned and gave birth to the children of their captors, although little is known of those children. The fact that Donoghue has gone from this angle is not only incredible in its own right, but even more so because she appears to have done such a good job of trying to imagine what must go through these children’s minds. There is also the issue of how these children are received, while Ma clearly loves her son deeply and does not associate him with her captor, it is understandable that others may struggle with the child being ‘the child of the captor’ as well as the victim. All of these subjects are dealt with in a respectful way and appear to have had a lot of research.

Of course I gave this book 5 stars *****. Donoghue is a truly magnificent writer with an inspiring talent. The way that the story is told is absolutely phenomenal, not only do Jack and Ma come to life, we really care for them and their recovery. I would definitely recommend reading the book before seeing the film, because no matter how many awards it has won, it wouldn’t have been possible without Donoghue’s magnificent storytelling.

Chloe Metzger

Book Review: The Lost and The Found – Cat Clarke

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Thirteen years ago your sister was kidnapped now she’s been let go and is coming home. You’re nervous, terrified and excited…who is she now?

Faith Logan has lived for the past thirteen years in the shadow of her older sister, Laurel, since she was kidnapped. Faith, only a toddler at the time, was the only witness in her sister’s disappearance. One morning her mother gets a phone call, Laurel has been found alive and well, and she’s coming home. While Faith and Laurel try to deal with the past and cautiously step into the future, it isn’t the end.

I picked up this novel from the YA section of Waterstones a few weeks ago, drawn by the bright yellow of the cover. As soon as I read the blurb I was hooked. I’ve had this fascination with people who come out of being kidnapped, Jaycee Lee Dugard briefly messaged me over Twitter, before she took her profile down. I’ve followed the cases of hope, when people are released. They go through horrible things most of the time, but can still come out and carry on.

I found Faith to be a really interesting and realistic character. While she is obviously happy that her sister has been found alive and well, she’s also nervous. Will her sister remember her? Who is she now? What does she look like? There’s also the matter of her family, ravaged by the press, her parents are now separated and her father lives with his partner after coming out as gay.

The novel is incredible, I’m sure I’ve read one of Clarke’s novels before although I don’t know the title. While so many of us expect it to instantly be happy and ecstatic, few will think about the adjustment not just for the kidnapped victim but also those around her. I think it’s important to point out that the sheer scale of the search for Laurel, seems to be similar to the Madeleine McCann search. Laurel is the posterchild for missing children, but the one that is found.

There are constant twists and turns within the book and the ending is clever, shocking and something that’s not forgettable. It keeps you interested throughout and I couldn’t stop reading for the life of me.

I want to give this novel four stars ****, it is a great book but there were some points where I could question the plot. There were also some characters I didn’t see the point in, such as Faith’s friend Martha who just seemed to be there and not always the great friend. It’s definitely a great novel and it really goes to new depths, especially for young adult although at times it is chilling.