Room by Emma Donoghue
A Novel

77%

61 Critic Reviews

This is a truly memorable novel, one that can be read through myriad lenses — psychological, sociological, political.
-NY Times

Synopsis

NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE -- nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture

To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world. . . . It's where he was born, it's where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it's the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack's curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.

Room is a tale at once shocking, riveting, exhilarating--a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.
 

About Emma Donoghue

See more books from this Author
Born in Dublin in 1969, Emma Donoghue is an Irish emigrant twice over: she spent eight years in Cambridge doing a PhD in eighteenth-century literature before moving to London, Ontario, where she lives with her partner and their two children. She also migrates between genres, writing literary history, biography, stage and radio plays as well as fairy tales and short stories. She is best known for her novels, which range from the historical (Slammerkin, Life Mask, Landing, The Sealed Letter) to the contemporary (Stir-Fry, Hood, Landing). Her international bestseller Room was a New York Times Best Book of 2010 and was a finalist for the Man Booker, Commonwealth, and Orange Prizes. For more information, visit www.emmadonoghue.com.
 
Published September 13, 2010 by Little, Brown and Company. 337 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction, Crime, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Education & Reference. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Mar 20 2016
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Bookmark Counts:
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Critic reviews for Room
All: 61 | Positive: 49 | Negative: 12

Kirkus

Good
on Jul 13 2010

Wrenching, as befits the grim subject matter, but also tender, touching and at times unexpectedly funny.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by AIMEE BENDER on Sep 16 2010

This is a truly memorable novel, one that can be read through myriad lenses — psychological, sociological, political.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on Sep 12 2010

“Room” never loses track of this boy’s utterly plausible, vividly described thought processes.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Aiman.A on Oct 06 2012

...despite the horrifying plot of the story, Room isn't a scary book, but rather, an interesting yet sad perspective of a young boy and his differences to other kids his age, due to being in confinement all his life. A must-read for all readers who want to brave something different.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Nicola Barr on Jul 31 2010

In the hands of this audacious novelist, Jack's tale is more than a victim-and-survivor story: it works as a study of child development, shows the power of language and storytelling, and is a kind of sustained poem in praise of motherhood and parental love.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Aiman.A on Oct 06 2012

Room isn't a scary book, but rather, an interesting yet sad perspective of a young boy...A must-read for all readers who want to brave something different.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Nicola Barr on Jul 31 2010

... it works as a study of child development, shows the power of language and storytelling, and is a kind of sustained poem in praise of motherhood and parental love.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Jul 12 2010

...Donoghue's bravado in investigating that potentially terrifying transformation grants the novel a frightening resonance that will keep readers rapt.

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Blog Critics

Below average
Reviewed by Secret Housewife on Jun 11 2011

I reached the end feeling glad that I had read it, but really not caring too much about the future of the Jack or Ma. It’s certainly worth a read, but don’t expect to be putting it in your ‘All-time Favourite’ section of the book shelf.

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Blog Critics

Excellent
Reviewed by Helen Smith on Apr 09 2011

Emma Donoghue is a very, very skilled writer. Room is a remarkable achievement. It’s one of the best books I have read in years.

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Blog Critics

Good
Reviewed by Nancy Fontaine on Oct 18 2010

Room may be a story with a difficult premise, but it is a book with great heart. It is well-worth the undoubtedly short time it will take to read.

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Blog Critics

Good
Reviewed by Nancy Fontaine on Oct 18 2010

Room may be a story with a difficult premise, but it is a book with great heart. It is well-worth the undoubtedly short time it will take to read.

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Examiner

Excellent
Reviewed by Kristin Wilson on Aug 15 2011

...it is an amazing tale of survival. The horrors Ma and Jack faced are dreadful and their coping mechanisms are unique to their situation.

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Book Reporter

Excellent
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on Sep 13 2010

...Donoghue appears to take great pains not only to eschew sensationalism in her own writing but also to inject a measure of hope and wonder.

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Globe and Mail

Above average
Reviewed by Stephen Amidon on Sep 10 2010

Despite these skillfully drawn elements, the book's second half is less effective than its first. Perhaps this is inevitable given the changed circumstances of the protagonists.

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Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Lisa Schwarzbaum on Sep 08 2010

...Donoghue avoids all sensationalism. Instead, she gracefully distills what it means to be a mother — and what it's like for a child whose entire world measures just 11 x 11.

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LA Times

Below average
Reviewed by David Ulin on Sep 29 2010

Clearly, Donoghue means to dramatize the back story of every fairy tale...But if "Room" vividly evokes these dangers, it is, in the end, too limited in its point of view.

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The Washington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Ron Charles on Sep 15 2010

Not too cute, not too weirdly precocious...Jack expresses a poignant mixture of wisdom, love and naivete that will make you ache to save him

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The Telegraph

Good
Reviewed by Catherine Taylor on Aug 15 2010

What saves this beautifully nuanced book from being in any way a voyeuristic reaction to true crime is less the descriptions of captivity than the inevitably changing nature of the child/parent relationship, which Donoghue explores here so minutely, recognisably and exultantly.

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The Telegraph

Good
Reviewed by Jonathan Gibbs on Jul 30 2010

...as a life-affirming fable of parent-child love, and an antidote to the prurience of so much crime fiction, it’s a triumph, and deserves to be a hit.

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The Bookbag

Excellent
Reviewed by Robin Leggett on Jul 10 2015

It's a brave, beautiful and haunting book but told in as upbeat manner as it's possible to do and the author's ability to get inside the mind of a five year old in an almost impossible to imagine situation is amazing.

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Dallas News

Good
Reviewed by Joy Tipping on Sep 19 2010

We've all heard the recent stories about women and children held captive for years. For anyone who's thought, "How do you survive that?" Donoghue provides mesmerizing insight, in a voice at once winsome and blistering.

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Pajiba

Good
Reviewed by pyrajane on Nov 23 2011

If you're willing to be uncomfortable and/or you like the idea of being inside the head of someone in a seriously fucked up situation, you'll like this. And you've probably already read it.

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Open Letters Monthly

Excellent
Reviewed by Janet Potter

The achievement of Room is that while you’re rooting for Jack and his mom to make a real, happy life for themselves, you’re also grieving, with Jack, for the beautiful part of what he lost.

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Oregon Live

Below average
Reviewed by Karla Starr on Sep 11 2010

Absent are any of the emotional subtleties, insights or genuine trauma that would actually happen in such an ordeal.

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Denver Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Claire Martin on Oct 24 2010

Donoghue's story is riveting, unnerving and utterly plausible.

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Slate

Good
Reviewed by Wendy Smith on Oct 03 2010

Once again, Donoghue fulfills the imperative that drives all her work: to honor stories that have not been told by finding the best way to tell them.

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About.com

Below average
Reviewed by Jeff Alford on Jun 24 2016

Donoghue crams Room full of more than it can hold. She has great success in making her readers feel as cramped as Jack and his mother, but the book tries to fit in far too many stirring vignettes.

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The Sydney Morning Herald

Good
Reviewed by Candida Baker on Oct 11 2010

...the grace of this book is redemption and the healing power of love to create safety.

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Full Stop

Good
Reviewed by Virginia Smith on Jan 19 2011

...Donoghue is a smart enough writer to know that these kinds of moments create a more tangible sense of closeness between her readers and her characters, all but guaranteeing that they’ll stay with you to the end of this unexpected meditation on voyeurism, relationships, and the nature of recovery.

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Metro

Above average
Reviewed by Claire Allfree on Aug 04 2010

...lyrical speech patterns beautifully capture the intense, abnormal richness of the pair’s sensory-deprived existence. Until, that is, the outside world intrudes...breaks the spell of Donoghue’s novel. From this point...becomes a typically...observed study of two people trying to negotiate a new freedom.

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Cairo 360

Excellent
Reviewed by Sara Aggour on Sep 17 2012

The author sheds a bright light on an extremely sensitive topic using an original, invigorating approach. She tastefully converted what could have been a depressing and disturbing story to a riveting and compelling tale.

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The Pacific Northwest Inlander

Above average
Reviewed by Michael Bowen on Sep 22 2010

Donoghue includes too many Britishisms for a story set in the States...and one plot development seems under-prepared for.

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Publishing Perspective

Good
Reviewed by Gwendolyn Dawson on Oct 04 2010

Given the constraints of her protagonist’s young age and narrow experience, the fact that Room is such an engaging novel is a remarkable achievement.

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The Mancunion

Good
Reviewed by Phillipa Moran on Oct 09 2012

The style is simple, but effective, and very accessible. Donoghue cleverly uses the pure, innocent language of a young child to describe horrors that Jack doesn’t understand, but that the reader instantly grasps.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by Calla on Jun 24 2016

The way Jack thought, the way he adjusted, was somewhat unrealistic. Overall, Room is a worthwhile novel and I highly recommend it.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by Writomania on Sep 30 2015

Room is all about the cruelties inflicted on a poor family by an sadistic man and how, ­despite the odds, they have the will to survive. When we read about this woman who is considered dead and this young boy whose existence is unknown, who gather the courage to stand up and fight, it gives us strength to overcome obstacles too.

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Maryse's Book Blog

Excellent
Reviewed by Maryse on Nov 02 2015

...I don’t want to give anything else away. This is definitely one to experience in it’s pure, very raw (excellently so), form. It’s an in-depth, frustrating and often heartwarming exploration of both of these characters as they navigate their world. At times suffocating and terrifying, at times heartening and hopeful.

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Jen's Book Thoughts

Good
Reviewed by Jen Forbus on Jan 14 2011

There were times where I would think, "really? Jack gets this concept but not that concept?" So some of those elements didn't seem like they balanced exactly right, but I think I was drawn to those details because Donoghue examines their lives at such high magnification. Those details were fleeting in the overall wonderfulness of ROOM.

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Write Meg

Good
Reviewed by Meg on Jan 20 2011

It’s unbelievable. What’s worse, too, is that the novel has a “ripped from the headlines” feel at points, particularly with mentions of paparazzi and news interviews. This really could be happening...it’s a sensational and unforgettable novel. Not to be missed.

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Quill & Quire

Good
on Jun 24 2016

Room is disturbing, thrilling, and emotionally compelling. Emma Donoghue has produced a novel that is sure to stay in the minds of readers for years to come.

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Quill & Quire

Good
Reviewed by Dory Cerny

Room is disturbing, thrilling, and emotionally compelling. Emma Donoghue has produced a novel that is sure to stay in the minds of readers for years to come.

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https://rhapsodyinbooks.wordpress.com

Good
Reviewed by rhapsodyinbooks on Dec 17 2010

This book tells a nightmarish story, and yet, since it comes entirely from five-year-old Jack’s perspective, it is much less disturbing than it could have been...And the abuse of his mother by Old Nick is something he describes in a confused way without understanding what he is saying.

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The Speculative Scotsman

Good
Reviewed by Niall Alexander on Nov 09 2011

Never mind the conspicuous-by-comparison second half: Room is otherwise so absolutely extraordinary as to make such oversight easy.

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The Oddness of Moving Things Blog

Good
on May 30 2011

I won’t go into any of the details about what happens outside Room, but suffice to say the thriller portion of the book is not only in the first half, you want to laugh and you want to cry as you’re reading the novel.

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https://lareviewofbooks.org

Below average
Reviewed by Sarah Blackwood on Nov 04 2015

...reader, I hated it...Room is a misogynistic exploration of the suffering misogyny causes women... I am tired of being asked to get so breathlessly excited about, impressed by, and thankful for portraits that look so closely at women’s deep suffering and yet somehow manage to still not see.

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Book Equals

Good
Reviewed by Michelle on Feb 28 2011

If you don’t mind the premise and want to read an interesting take on love, the resilience of a child, and the world as whole, Room is a good bet.

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Literary Corner Cafe Blog

Below average
Reviewed by Literary Corner Cafe on Nov 08 2010

Obviously, for me, it didn’t work at all. I thought the premise was wonderful, but I felt Donoghue failed to deliver. I honestly can’t understand how this book even made the Booker longlist, let alone the shortlist. I expect more depth and insight from a Booker nominated work.

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https://bookmunch.wordpress.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Clare Hey on Aug 25 2010

Powerful and moving, Room is a thought-provoking novel. Yes, it’s a page turner and a book you’ll probably read in one sitting, but it is more than that. Room stays with you and, yes, do believe the hype: it will change you.

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Lovely Treez Reads

Good
on Aug 20 2010

Emma Donoghue had produced an astounding novel here, perfectly capturing the voice of a child held in captivity whose emotional and physical growth are evidently stunted yet Jack emerges as one of the more memorable characters in literature and you will be totally engaged by his particular take on the world as he knows it.

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Melody & Words

Excellent
Reviewed by Melody Schreiber on Nov 08 2010

This is the kind of book you race through, bursting with the characters’ contagious anguish and passion, but when you reach the end you instantly regret your haste. But then you have the pleasure of flipping back through the pages and relishing once again Donoghue’s masterful storytelling ability.

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The Cascade

Good
Reviewed by Leanna Pankratz on Mar 14 2012

Room is not a novel to pick up and throw away, nor a casual “beach read,” but a readable pseudo-study of the effects that big, horrible events have on a child, and the resilient spirit of mother and son that overcome them.

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https://bfgb.wordpress.com

Above average
Reviewed by Jan on Mar 19 2012

It is difficult to say I “enjoyed” a book with such a dark storyline, but ultimately Room is a book about love and life, rather than hate and imprisonment.

Read Full Review of Room: A Novel

http://bookloverbookreviews.com

Good
Reviewed by Jo on Jan 23 2011

The moment I began reading, I could not drag myself away. Room is a book that lingers and I am the better for having read it.

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https://theprettybooks.wordpress.com

Good
on Oct 06 2011

Overall, I thought Room was fascinating and brilliantly done. I did have a few reservations, which is why I do not feel I can say I ‘loved it’ and give it the full five star rating. I mainly had issues with part 3. I found it to be less realistic than the rest of the novel and it impaired my enjoyment.

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https://www.psychologytoday.com

Good
Reviewed by Amy J.L. Baker on Dec 22 2015

What makes the book so powerful is that it truly captures the world from the perspective of a child and what the story shows so clearly is that what adults think and believe and know about what is best for children is not always consistent with what children like or want.

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Paulette Alden

Above average
Reviewed by Paulette on Sep 19 2011

Jack’s experiences, observations, feelings and thoughts are all clever, original and creative, but too much of a good thing for 321 pages. The ending is moving and works, but I could have gotten there about 50 pages sooner.

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https://kevinfromcanada.wordpress.com

Below average
on Aug 14 2010

They escape to Outside in a development that does defy all credibility and sets the book on its downward slope...I am not unhappy that I read it, but I can’t say that I look forward to a second read...

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https://theasylum.wordpress.com

Below average
on Aug 12 2010

It dwindles almost to nothing in the second half. In the end, although Room manages not to be ghoulish or exploitative about the real cases which were (according to the acknowledgements) its inspiration, it also fails to capitalise on the wonderful fictional opportunities that such a set-up promises.

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Writers News Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Carlotta Holton

Room is as psychologically fascinating as it is exemplative of a mother’s ultimate love for her child.

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https://humblereviews.wordpress.com

Good
Reviewed by slhunsberger on Jun 08 2011

If you are looking for a unique, perspective-changing, thought-provoking book, I definitely recommend Room.

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Reader Rating for Room
79%

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Rated the book as 5 out of 5

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Katrina Bernardo 5 Sep 2013

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