My rating: 5 of 5 stars
There seems to be a lot of controversy about this book, but I found it fascinating and very compelling. On the surface, it seems simple. A young woman is kidnapped at 19 and kept in a 11 x 11 room for the next 7 years. About 2 years into her captivity, she gave birth to her son, Jack, with no one attending her but her captor.
The narrator of the story is Jack and begins at his fifth birthday. All he has ever known is the small room, his mother, his captor/father who never interacts with him, and the TV world which he realizes is pretend. He has no other world than this. One of the more interesting devices Donoghue uses to create his isolation is the lack of a determiner before the physical nouns in the story. Jack speaks of "room," "wardrobe," "bed," and not "the room," "this bed," or "a wardrobe." At first it is disconcerting until the reader realizes that in Jack's world there are no other objects. Nothing else exists for Jack. There are no other wardrobes, beds or rooms.
Jack is precocious and obviously very bright, but he has also been brought up by a mother who has nothing else to do all day but interact with him. In some ways, he seems more adult, but in others he is naively young. It is impossible to know how a child in this kind of situation would develop. Even the few children who have grown up this way would have different temperaments and levels of intelligence.
Emma Donoghue has created a world that explores a topic that many people are uncomfortable with. It is terrifying to envision this world and all its ramifications for human development. A child like Jack is possible and the issues he and his mother deal with have happened. A book like this opens all sorts of possibilities.
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