It is commonly held that you should never judge a book by its cover.  Unfortunately, that’s a rather difficult proposition these days, as more often than not, book covers are littered with glowing endorsements.  And though it may be true that the road to sell is paved with good mentions, I believe that the practice is a step in a decidedly dangerous direction.  Emma Donoghue’s Room serves to demonstrate the peril inherent to this phenomenon.

Readers giving credence to all the hype adorning the copy I read might expect an experience bordering on mystical.  For example, renowned author Michael Cunningham relates a reading experience just short of epiphany.  As he professes, the novel is

 “potent, darkly beautiful, and revelatory.”

Perhaps it was the expectation generated by such hyperbole, but I found the book less than satisfying.  While it was by no means the worst thing I’ve ever read, it definitely fell short of the hype.  In fact, in many respects Room is a remarkable literary effort.  Donoghue had to work under the restraints imposed by her decision to use a very young narrator, and the challenge of believably presenting life lived inside of a garden shed.  On the other hand, the narrative illusion faltered occasionally, and at times I was all too aware of the wizard behind the curtain.  Furthermore, I found the work’s structure odd and anticlimactic; the novel’s second-half seemed thin and markedly less powerful than its beginning.

In light of my experience, I was not looking forward to the May chapter of the ongoing saga known as the Crandall Public Library Monday Evening Book Discussion Group.  As it turns out, I need not have worried.  Much as I had found fault, a number of the attendees arrived well-armed with similar substantive misgivings.  Many of these revolved around issues with Jack’s speech, which often failed to ring true.  In any case, an interesting digression developed about what constitutes an ideal work for discussion.  And finally, many thanks to Anne “Always Awesome” Nelson for her help in putting this post together.


Emma Donoghue’s Home Page

Donoghue Discusses the Parent Child Relationship

Donoghue Talks about Room

Select Emma Donoghue at the Library

Kissing the Witch


The Sealed Letter


Touchy Subjects

Relevant Reading

Captivated by tales of those held captive?  If that’s the case, then you might enjoy Still Missing by Chevy StevensAccording to Library Journal:

“…it’s a knockout, a psychological thriller that pulls no punches…”

Fetch a library copy here

Explore Still Missing at LibraryThing

Parting Shot…

And finally, I am hoping that you might consider joining us for our June 18, 2012 discussion of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  The trailer below offers a good sense of what the work is all about.  As for me, I am working my way through a second reading, and finding it even more impressive than the initial encounter.  Take care and see you there.


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2 responses to “Room

  1. Phyllis

    I thoroughly agree with you, Frank. Phyllis

    • I am not totally against “books as billboards.” On the other hand, I do think that such efforts go a bit too far in many cases. I like to form my own opinions, and I think that a good book should sell it itself. Room could have been a revelation. Instead, it failed to live up to the hype.

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