Room (London: Picador; Toronto: HarperCollins Canada; New York: Little Brown, 2010), my Man-Booker-shortlisted seventh novel, is the story of a five-year-old called Jack, who lives in a single room with his Ma and has never been outside. When he turns five, he starts to ask questions, and his mother reveals to him that there is a world beyond the walls. Told entirely in Jack’s voice, Room is no horror story or tearjerker, but a celebration of resilience and the love between parent and child.
An international bestseller as soon as it was published in August 2010, Room has now sold well over a million copies. It won the Hughes & Hughes Irish Novel of the Year, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize (for best Canadian novel), the Commonwealth Prize (Canada & Carribbean Region), the Canadian Booksellers’ Association Libris Awards (Fiction Book and Author of the Year), the Forest of Reading Evergreen Award and the W. H. Smith Paperback of the Year Award. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award, International Author of the Year (Galaxy National Book Awards), the Governor General’s Award and the Trillium English Book Award. The American Library Association gave it an Alex Award (for an adult book with special appeal to readers 12-18) and the Indie Choice Award for Adult Fiction. The Canadian Library Association named it as an Honour Book in their Canadian Young Adult Book Award. The four-voiced audiobook version won one of three Publishers Weekly Listen Up Awards and an Earphones Award.
The New York Times named it as one of their six best fiction titles of 2010 and the Washington Post included it in their Editors’ Top Ten. Room was also winner of a Salon Book Award for Fiction, an NPR Best Book of 2010, a New Yorker Reviewers’ Favorite, Bloomberg’s 2010 Top Novel, The Week Magazine’s Top Book 2010, and featured on many ‘best of the year’ lists including those of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Christian Science Monitor. Room was Amazon.ca and Indigo’s Best Book (as well as a Heather’s Pick) of 2010, fiction winner of the Goodreads Choice Awards, Top Pick of the Channel 4 TV Book Club, and also chosen by the Richard & Judy Book Club. Room was chosen as one of twenty-five titles to be given away by tens of thousands on World Book Night UK 2012.
Room has been translated into thirty-five languages, with special educational editions in German and Dutch; go to http://www.cdla.co.uk/?p=367 for full details and jackets.
A personal note: Room was inspired by… having kids; the locked room is a metaphor for the claustrophobic, tender bond of parenthood. I borrowed observations, jokes, kid grammar and whole dialogues from our son Finn, who was five while I was writing it. Room was also inspired by... ancient folk motifs of walled-up virgins who give birth (e.g. Rapunzel), often to heroes (e.g. Danaë and Perseus). Room was also inspired by… the Fritzl family’s escape from their dungeon in Austria – though I doubt I’ll ever use contemporary headlines as a launching point again, since I didn’t like being even occasionally accused of ‘exploitation’ or tagged ‘Fritzl writer’. But on the whole, publishing my seventh novel – and having the great good fortune to win new readers all over the world – has been a delight.
‘Astounding, terrifying… It’s a testament to Donoghue’s imagination that she is able to fashion radiance from such horror.’ – The New Yorker
‘One of the most affecting and subtly profound novels of the year. … For such a peculiar, stripped-down tale, it's fantastically evocative… Not too cute, not too weirdly precocious, not a fey mouthpiece for the author's profundities, Jack expresses a poignant mixture of wisdom, love and naivete that will make you ache to save him -- whatever that would mean.’ – Washington Post Book World
‘A feat of both infectious claustrophobia and controlled perspective.’ – Time
‘Heart-stopping… Donoghue’s utterly gripping plot may sound as if it has been ripped from headlines, but there's real art here… "Room" is a big wow.’ – San Francisco Chronicle
'Donoghue has created one of the pure triumphs of recent fiction: an ebullient child narrator, held captive with his mother in an 11-by-11-foot room, through whom we encounter the blurry, often complicated space between closeness and autonomy. In a narrative at once delicate and vigorous — rich in psychological, sociological and political meaning — Donoghue reveals how joy and terror often dwell side by side.' – note on Room’s choice as one of five best fiction titles of 2010 in the New York Times
‘Donoghue navigates beautifully around these limitations. Jack’s voice is one of the pure triumphs of the novel… Thrilling and at moments palm-sweatingly harrowing… This is a truly memorable novel, one that can be read through myriad lenses – psychological, sociological, political. It presents an utterly unique way to talk about love, all the while giving us a fresh, expansive eye on the world in which we live.’ – New York Times Book Review (cover review)
‘Jack is precocious but entirely believable, his passage out of cloistered innocence more universal than you might think (it’s no accident, surely, that the book’s title rhymes with “womb”).’ – People (a People Pick)
‘Narrated by a 5-year-old boy so real you could swear he was sitting right beside you… Room has all kinds of emotional wallop. But what makes the emotion possible is that this book is built like a finely crafted instrument that perfectly merges art and function… Room is so beautifully contrived that it never once seems contrived. But be warned: once you enter, you’ll be Donoghue’s willing prisoner right down to the last page.’ - Newsweek
"Room" is indeed suspenseful, but the fact that it could well keep you up late, eager to find out what happens next, isn't the extraordinary thing about this novel… Without denying Jack's vulnerability, Donoghue allows an almost terrifying resilience to seep into his narrative — terrifying because the momentum that drives a child to adulthood, that sends him rocketing away from the past, is so relentless and inexorable. There's a wholeness to the conclusion of "Room" that doesn't resort to false tidiness and bogus uplift.’ – Salon.com
‘Sophisticated in outlook and execution… Ms. Donoghue makes the gutsy and difficult choice to keep the book anchored somewhere inside Jack’s head… Utterly plausible, vividly described.’ – New York Times
‘A novel so disturbing that we defy you to stop thinking about it, days later … beautifully served by Jack's wise but innocent voice.’ – O Magazine
‘Powerful, tension-filled and takes a big risk… Highly recommended.’ – Now
‘Claustrophobic, controversial, brilliant… inventive, tense, and stringently intelligent.’ - Macleans
‘Remarkable… heartrending… Both gripping and poignant, it’s a tribute to human resourcefulness and resilience and extremity, and a stirring portrait of a mother’s devotion.’ – Toronto Star
‘Riveting and original… a page-turner… With a good deal of cleverness and skill, Donoghue manages to build a level of suspense which makes the book impossible to set aside.’ – London Free Press
‘Inventive and disturbing… compellingly subversive.’ – Winnipeg Free Press
‘Somehow, via the narrative voice of Jack and his stoic and heroic making-sense in words of his small world, it breaks free of every preset category. This is a novel, and a child, that will not be confined…. Pungent and percussive, Jack’s new-minted language grabs hold of his constricted life with startling force and zest … The book often bounces along through its profound darkness with a near-comic exuberance.’ – Independent
‘Charming, funny, artfully constructed and at times almost unbearably moving, Donoghue mines material that on the face of it appears intractably bleak and surfaces with a powerful, compulsively readable work of fiction that defies easy categorization. … Part childhood adventure story, part adult thriller, Room is above all the most vivid, radiant and beautiful expression of maternal love I have ever read. Emma Donoghue has stared into the abyss, honoured her sources and returned with the literary equivalent of a great Madonna and Child. This book will break your heart." – Irish Times
‘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.’ – Daily Telegraph
‘It takes a consummate writer to make us marvel at the mundane. Beckett's Waiting for Godot did it, of course. So did Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, set in a 1950s Siberian labour camp. Emma Donoghue does it so spectacularly that we are taken by surprise when, in the middle of the novel, resourceful Ma's escape plans swing into action… Donoghue’s great strength – apart from her storytelling gift – is her emotional intelligence.’ – Irish Independent
‘Both hard to put down and profoundly affecting... Donoghue has crafted a narrative that moves as breathlessly as a serial-killer thriller while convincingly portraying, with the precision of a science-fiction novel, how a boy might believe that a room is his whole world.’ – Sunday Times
‘A novel like no other … The grotesque is consistently balanced with the uplifting and there is a moment, halfway through the novel, where you feel you would fight anyone who tried to wrestle it from your grasp with the same ferocity that Ma fights for Jack, such is the author's power to make out of the most vile circumstances something absorbing, truthful and beautiful.’ – Observer
‘A celebration of the freedoms we take for granted. A gripping, moving read.’ – Time Out
‘The story is told with unsurpassed panache. … Room will certainly be much garlanded, and it will deserve every prize it gets. Fantastic.’ – Readers Digest
‘I’ve never read a more heart-burstingly, gut wrenchingly compassionate novel . . . As for sweet, bright, funny Jack, I wanted to scoop him up out of the novel and never let him go. In him, Donoghue has created 21st-century fiction’s most uniquely loveable voice.’ – Daily Mail
‘Not many writers, though, would have had the courage, or the ability, to visit this particular place and produce such a startlingly original and moving piece of work . . . it is a testament to Donoghue’s skill how quickly that voice becomes acceptable, then endearing and finally utterly compelling, as compelling as the murdered young girl who narrated Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones. … It is a tremendous achievement.’ - Scotsman
'Totally unique and intriguing. It kept us utterly hooked.' - Cosmopolitan
‘Gripping, harrowing, oddly life-affirming and imaginative… extraordinary power’ – Mirror (Book of the Week)
‘A brilliant book, moving, true, funny, desolate and unmissable.’ – Herald (Ireland)
The excellent ten-page Back Bay Readers’ Picks Reading Group Guide to Room: Click here.
For an interactive floor plan and lots of other information about Room, check out www.roomthebook.com.
‘A Library for Ma and Jack,’ selection © Emma Donoghue Ltd, 2010. It was so hard choosing just ten books for Jack and Ma to have in Room that I’ve put together a sort of anthology of texts that might help them on the Outside. Click here to read more.
Here is Little, Brown’s atmospheric trailer for the novel:
And HarperCollins Canada’s one, which was a finalist in the year’s book trailer awards:
TV interview about Room on the Richard and Judy Book Club, Spring 2011:
Short film about Room created by the BBC for the Man Booker Prize, September 2010:
An in-depth 40-minute audio discussion of Room by the Slate Book Club, http://www.slate.com/id/2286457/
Reading from Room at International Festival of Authors in Toronto, October 2010: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/books/in-other-words/podcast-emma-donoghue-reads-at-ifoa-2010/article1784074/
Interviewed by Melissa Block on NPR’s All Things Considered, 27 September 2010: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130143360
Interviewed by John Hockenberry on The Takeaway, 29 September 2010: http://www.thetakeaway.org/2010/sep/29/emma-donoghue-her-new-novel-room/
A fascinating case-study of the marketing of Room, broadcast on NPR, 10 September 2010: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129757766
A short sample of the Hachette audiobook of Room, starring the late great Michael Friedman as Jack, with Ellen Archer, Robert Petkoff and Suzanne Toren.
Interviewed by Harriett Gilbert on BBC World Service’s The Strand, 12 August 2010: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p008zrbp/The_Strand_The_Strand_Thursday_12th_August_2010/
Interviewed by Jenny Murray on Woman’s Hour, BBC Radio 4, 12 August 2010: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00t89g6/Womans_Hour_11_08_2010/
Anne Fogarty, ‘Tales of Becoming?: Childhood and Adolescence in Contemporary Irish Fiction,’ paper delivered at ESSE-11 conference (Istanbul, 2012)
Libe García Zarranz, ‘Deviant Populations and Globalized Surveillance in Emma Donoghue’s Room: Towards a New Cross-Border Ethic,’ paper delivered at Hybrid Irelands conference (University of Notre Dame, 2012)
Marcela Chmelinová, ‘Emma Donoghue: Room – Translation and Analysis’ (BA thesis, University of Masaryk, 2012)
Libe García Zarranz, ‘Corporeal Citizenship: Unruly Bodies and Closet Spaces in Emma Donoghue’s Room,’ paper delivered at (Un)Becoming Irishness AEDEI International Conference (University of Oviedo, 2011).
Ann-Sofie Lacroix, 'Jack, the Explorer: Analysis of the Unreliable Child Narrator and the Mother-Child Dyad in Emma Donoghue’s Room (2010)' (MA thesis, University of Leuven, 2011-12)
Marisol Morales Ladrón, ‘Psychological Resilience and Rebirth in Emma Donoghue’s Room,’ paper delivered at (Un)Becoming Irishness AEDEI International Conference (University of Oviedo, 2011).
Ben Davies, ‘Exceptional Intercourse: sex, time and space in contemporary novels by male British and American writers’ [coda about Room], (thesis, University of St Andrews, 2011)
Fintan O’Toole, ‘Future Fictions’, in Princeton University Library Chronicle (LXXIII), Autumn 2010, 407-18. Fascinating essay that puts Room in the context of other current Irish fiction focused on young protagonists.
‘The Q&A: Emma Donoghue’, http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2010/11/room
‘Emma Donoghue: Some Benevolent Force’ (29 October 2010), www.canadianinterviews.com/interviews/index.php?ID=383
‘Living Room’, Emily Landau, http://www.walrusmagazine.com/blogs/2010/10/25/living-room/#more-8609
Ron Charles, ‘The teeny, tiny world of little Jack’, Washington Post Book World, 15 September 2010, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2010/09/14/ST2010091406651.html
Laura Miller, ‘Room: the boy from an 11-by-11-foot world’, salon.com, 12 September 2010: http://www.salon.com/books/laura_miller/story/index.html?story=/books/laura_miller/2010/09/12/room
Malcolm Jones, ‘No Exit’, Newsweek, 9 September 2010, http://www.newsweek.com/2010/09/09/books-a-room-with-no-view.html
Aimee Bender, ‘Separation Anxiety’, New York Times Book Review, 19 September 2010
Nicola Barr, ‘Upstairs, Downstairs… A Child’s Chamber of Horrors’, Observer, 1 August 2010
Declan Hughes, ‘This Book Will Break Your Heart’, Irish Times, 24 July 2010
Mary Shine Thompson, ‘A Room With a View’, Irish Independent, 24 July 2010
‘The NS Books Interview: Emma Donoghue’, http://www.newstatesman.com/books/2010/10/fritzl-case-novel-child-room
Boyd Tonkin, ‘Room With a Panoramic View: How Emma Donoghue's Latest Novel Aims to Tell a Universal Story’, Independent, 6 August 2010, http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/room-with-a-panoramic-view-how-emma-donoghues-latest-novel-aims-to-tell-a-universal-story-2044373.html. A particularly insightful article.
‘I Knew I Wasn’t Being Voyeuristic’, interview by Sarah Crown, Guardian, 13 August 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/aug/13/emma-donoghue-room-josef-fritzl
Emma Donoghue, ‘Finding Jack’s Voice: Some Thoughts on Children and Language’, in Finding the Words: Writers on Inspiration, Desire, War, Celebrity, Exile, and Breaking the Rules, ed. Jared Bland (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2011).
Emma Donoghue, ‘The Little Voices In Our Heads That Last a Lifetime’, Irish Times, 7 August 2010, www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/weekend/2010/0807/1224276358845.html
Emma Donoghue, ‘Writing Room: Why and How’, http://www.harpercollins.ca/author/authorExtra.aspx?isbn13=9781554688319&authorID=60063823&displayType=bookessay