Room door Emma Donoghue

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Boekcover Room
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  • 5 april 2022
  • 11 keer beoordeeld
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Booker prize (2010 Genomineerd)

Boekcover Room

Het is Jacks verjaardag, hij wordt al vijf. Jack leeft met Mam in Kamer, waarvan de deur op slot zit. Kamer heeft alleen een dakraam en is elf vierkante meter groot. Jack is dol op televisie kijken; Dora de Explorer is zijn vriendin, maar hij weet dat wat hij op televisie ziet niet echt is. Alleen hijzelf is echt, en Mam, en de dingen in Kamer. En Ouwe Nick die '…

Het is Jacks verjaardag, hij wordt al vijf. Jack leeft met Mam in Kamer, waarvan de deur op slot zit. Kamer heeft alleen een dakraam en is elf vierkante meter groot. Jack is dol …

Het is Jacks verjaardag, hij wordt al vijf. Jack leeft met Mam in Kamer, waarvan de deur op slot zit. Kamer heeft alleen een dakraam en is elf vierkante meter groot. Jack is dol op televisie kijken; Dora de Explorer is zijn vriendin, maar hij weet dat wat hij op televisie ziet niet echt is. Alleen hijzelf is echt, en Mam, en de dingen in Kamer. En Ouwe Nick die 's nachts vaak komt. Dan zit Jack in de kast en kraakt het bed.

Op een dag vertelt Mam hem dat er buiten Kamer ook een echte wereld is. Een wereld waarmee Jack na hun ontsnapping zal kennismaken.

Kamer is het onvergetelijke verhaal van een moeder en haar zoontje die dankzij hun liefde het onmogelijke overleven. Het is onsentimenteel, soms grappig, soms gruwelijk, en altijd fascinerend. 

Room door Emma Donoghue
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Factual information

Title: Room.

Author: Emma Donoghue.

Genre: fictional novel, thriller, crime, coming-of-age.

Publication year: 2010.

Pages: 336.

Publisher: HarperCollins (Canada), Little, Brown (US) and Picador (UK).

Expectations and first reaction

I read this book because I had watched the movie already and I discovered that I was able to read the book ‘Room’ for my literature list. I decided to read the book because I really enjoyed the movie and I was curious to see how much of it would overlap.

The overall premise of the book was the same as the movie, like I expected. However, multiple things did differ from the movie. The main difference was the amount of different scenes the book had; many scenes that did occur in the book, did not occur in the movie. This is understandable, since it takes longer to act out a scene than to write a scene and the movie would have been too long otherwise. However, most of the scenes that took place in the movie did accord with the book.

I think that watching the movie first and then reading the book was a better idea than vice versa, since the movie paints the picture for you, which stays in your head while reading the book. If I would have read the book first and then watched the movie, everything might have looked different than what I imagined, and some of my favourite scenes from the book might not take place, making the movie less entertaining.

Since the movie did not have a specific perspective, I was also surprised to find out that the whole book is written from Jack’s perspective: this really sheds new light on the story and reading it was an entirely different experience.

The summary

Long summary:

The book begins on Jack’s fifth birthday. He has lived in a shed of 11 × 11 feet that he calls Room his entire life. His mother, whom he calls Ma, has lived in Room for even longer. To make living in Room more bearable for Jack, Ma has convinced him that the rest of the world is only on television and that he, she, and Room are the only ones who are ‘real’. She tries to keep Jack as healthy as she can by mental and physical exercise, a healthy diet, brushing teeth regularly and limiting TV-time. The only person Jack knows besides his mother, is Nick. He visits almost every night, while Jack is sleeping in his closet. Nick also brings food and necessities on Sunday, what Jack calls ‘Sunday Treat’.

For Jack, life in Room is not all that bad. What Jack does not know, is that Nick abducted Ma when she was 19 years old and that he rapes her almost every night.

A week after Jack’s fifth birthday, Nick tells Ma that he lost his job and that he is in debt. Thinking that Nick might need to sell the house, Ma is afraid Nick will abandon or kill her and Jack. She decides to tell Jack the real story about the outside world, in order to get Jack to help her escape Room. Jack does not believe Ma and is reluctant to help her at first, but eventually agrees.

Her plan is to convince Nick that Jack is extremely ill, so that Nick can take him to the hospital and Jack can ask for help there. However, the plan backfires as Nick refuses to take Jack to the hospital and only gives him some over-the-counter medicine. Ma turns to plan B, which is pretending like Jack died from his illness. She rolls Jack, who is actually alive and well, into a carpet and tells Nick to bury him somewhere nice and far away. This time, the plan does succeed, and Nick puts Jack, rolled up in the carpet, into the trunk of his pick-up car.

Now, this is where Ma’s carefully crafted plan really starts. Even though not everything the way they practiced, Jack manages to get out of the car and find a stranger. Jack does not ask for help because of how overwhelmed he is seeing the outside world for the first time. However, the stranger does call the police because he found the situation odd and suspicious. Jack is greeted by the police officers and put in their patrol car. The police officers do not understand everything about Jack’s situation, but they are able to find Room because of Jack’s description.

Dit wil je ook lezen:

Jack and Ma finally reunite, and they are taken to a psychiatric hospital, where they are primarily taken care of by Dr. Clay and a nurse called Noreen. Nick is also found and he is charged with numerous charges, including abduction, rape and child endangerment.

Ma reunites with her family, primarily her mother and her new stepfather, and begins to relearn how to interact in the real world. Jack is still very overwhelmed by everything and just wants to go back to Room. While Jack’s grandma and her new partner, Leo, are very kind to Jack, his grandfather can’t bear to see him. He can not look at Jack as anything else than a product of the rape Ma endured during her captivity. Ma gets angry at him and he leaves.

Ma and Jack’s case has attracted a lot of attention from the public and the media, making it even more difficult to try and live a normal life. Ma decides to agree to do a television interview, but it goes very badly, including the interviewer asking questions about things Ma said were off-limits and expressing criticism about Ma’s way of raising Jack. The day after the interview, Ma has a mental breakdown and tries to commit suicide. Jack stays with his grandma and Leo while Ma recovers in a psychiatric facility.

After Ma recovers, they move into an independent living facility. But before they move on, Jack wants to visit Room one more time and Ma reluctantly agrees to take him to Room, which has become a crime scene. But when they arrive, and Jack does not even recognize it at first and does not feel any emotional attachment to it anymore. Ma and Jack say their goodbyes and return home, ready to start a new chapter of their life.


Het boekverslag gaat verder na deze boodschap.

Verder lezen

Jack (round character): Jack is the five-year-old narrator of the story. He seems like a curious, intelligent, regular young boy. However, when he is freed from Room, it is shown that he does have some developmental delay. While he knows how to read and write perfectly, he has trouble going up and down the stairs or playing on a playground. He is very emotionally attached to his mother; he does not trust other people easily and feels unsafe whenever his mom leaves the room. Jack is often overwhelmed and wants to go back to Room. However, the longer he lives in the outside world, the more adapted he gets to society and not being around his mother all the time. The reader can see that he undergoes major character development throughout the story, especially with how much the book focuses on Jack’s thoughts and behaviour.

Ma (round character): Ma is the mother of Jack; her real name is not known. She was kidnapped at age 19 and had already lived in Room for two years before giving birth to Jack. When she is freed from Room, she has to relearn most of the things in the outside world, but she does not want to go back to Room ever again, unlike Jack. She is very protective of Jack and wants the best for him. She is very strong and resilient. Although she kept strong during her imprisonment, being in Room did give her quite some psychological problems, which is also the reason she tried to commit suicide after. Since her role in the story is merely being Jack’s mother, and how she treats Jack stays the same through the book, her character development is not shown for the most part.

Nick (flat character): Nick is the man who kidnapped Ma and holds Jack and Ma hostage. He is the biological father of Jack, because he routinely raped Ma during her imprisonment, but this is rarely mentioned in the book. His motives are not known, but he does often talk about how he is doing them a favor by bringing them groceries and other necessities, and that he is doing Ma a favor by protecting Jack from the outside world. He might believe this bizarre explanation himself as well.

Doctor Clay (flat character): Doctor Clay is the doctor who helps Ma and Jack (re)adjust to the outside world. He is very friendly and professional, but he is a little overprotective of Ma and Jack at times. He thinks they need an extremely slow adjustment to the world, therefore underestimating Jack and Ma’s strength. However, he is also very emphatic and sensitive and is very invested in Jack and Ma’s recovery.

Grandma (flat character): Jack’s grandmother and Ma’s mother. She is very happy to have her daughter back in her life, and while she loves Jack deeply, she does struggle to get a good relationship with her grandson. She does not want to coddle Jack when he lives with her, which Jack needs time to adjust to. She is imperfect, but she tries her best to be a good grandmother and mother.

Leo (flat character): Leo is Grandma’s second husband and Ma’s stepfather. Jack calls him ‘Steppa’ as an abbreviation of step-grandpa. While Ma isn’t too excited about her new stepfather and takes a while to warm up to him, but Jack has really bonded with him. He does not have nor want any kids himself, but he gets along pretty well with Jack. He is very laid-back and knows how to deal with Jack’s tantrums.


The book is written chronologically and no flashbacks or flashforwards are used. This way, the story stays tensive and surprising. For example, if the reader already knew that Jack and Ma would successfully escape, the tension of the escape scenes would disappear.

The story takes place in the late 2000’s. Jack knows about famous pop stars like Rihanna. Ma must have been kidnapped around 2000, because when they are in the outside world, she does not know about Snapchat or Facebook. I do not think the story would be different if it took place later or earlier than 2000, since kidnapping has been done for centuries already and there would have been different things to miss out on after spending years in isolation.

The story does not cover a lot of time; half a year at most. The book begins when Jack is five and he is still five when the book ends. The book has 336 pages.

Space & place

The first half of the book takes place in Room. This is of course very important to the book, since Room is the small shed in Nick’s backyard where Ma and Jack are imprisoned. The second half of the book takes place in, as Jack would call it, the ‘Outside World’. It merely takes place in a psychiatric hospital, Grandma and Leo’s house and an Independent Living Facility. 

Room symbolizes imprisonment and restriction, but to Jack, it also symbolizes safety and home; he does not know any better, unlike his mother. Ma personalized all objects in the room, by naming them, providing Jack with a more conscious view on his small living environment.
While the psychiatric hospital makes efforts to be the safe place where Ma and Jack can slowly adjust to the real world, it is still very overwhelming and scary to Jack. While Jack is surrounded by his loving family during his stay at his Grandma’s house, it is even scarier to Jack, especially since his mother is not there.

Ma likes The Independent Living Facility and immediately calls it home. Jack has to adjust to Ma having her own room and some other ways in which it is different from Room. However, it does symbolize a new start for both Ma and Jack.

Writing style

The writing style is simple and child-like. There are no long sentences, unnecessary details or difficult words used, which makes sense, considering that Jack is the narrator. The writing style makes Room easy to read and makes the book feel like a lot less than 336 pages. However, because not everything is explained and Jack does not understand everything, the reader does need to pay attention to keep up.

“The shadows are all long again now, mine waves right across our room on the green wall. I watch God’s face falling slow slow, even orangier and the clouds are all colors, then after there’s streaks and dark coming up so bit-at-a-time I don’t see it till it’s done.”

-Jack describing the sunset in Room.


The story is written from Jack’s perspective and uses the I-narrative. The fact that the narrator of the book is only five years old gives an interesting twist to the story.

The story is full of thoughts patterns of Jack that consist of philosophical logic only kids have, such as “If I was made of cake, I'd eat myself before somebody else could”. There are also many things and words Jack does not understand, causing the reader to need to conclude many things themselves with the given information. For example, when Jack says “When Old Nick creaks Bed, I listen and count fives on my fingers, tonight it’s 217 creaks. I always have to count till he makes that gaspy sound and stops.”, the reader understands that Nick is raping Ma, but Jack does not.


The main theme of the story is:

  • Freedom and confinement. The first part of the story symbolizes confinement because they are stuck in Room, and the second part of the story symbolizes freedom because they escaped Room. After they escape Room, Ma finds herself being less free than she wanted being in a psychiatric hospital and followed by the paparazzi, while Jack is freer than he wanted and gets very overwhelmed.

Other themes of the story are:

  • Family and maternal love. Ma and Jack have an extremely tight-knit bond and Ma is very protective of Jack. When Jack finds out he has other family members as well, he is not too keen on them at first. However, Ma is very happy to see her family again, especially her mother and her brother. Eventually, Jack does warm up to them and considers them family.
  • Jack went his entire life without communication to anyone else but his mom. Because of this, he does not know many social rules and it is difficult for him to communicate with other people. For example, when Jack escapes Room, he is not able to tell the police officers anything at first.
  • Ma lived in a constant state of fear when she was in Room; both fear of the unknown (such as, what will Old Nick do next?) and fear of the known (such as Old Nick raping her every night). When she escapes Room, the fear still follows her everywhere, making her scared of elevators because she can not open the doors and making her dislike zoo’s because they have cages.
  • Jack is born in Room, sleeps there every night and his growth chart is tracked on the wall; one could argue that Room is Jack’s home. But wouldn’t the terrible circumstances make it a prison, not a home? Ma is very firm on this topic, saying it was a prison and could not be considered a home under any circumstance. But for Jack, this might be different, since he was born and raised in Room and did not have to go through abuse Ma received. When Ma and Jack move into their new apartment, Ma calls it home the second they set foot into the apartment. Jack is puzzled and does not understand how something can be home when he never lived there, but eventually also starts calling it home.

There are many things that repeatedly appear in the book and could be called leitmotifs, since Room is very small and does not have a lot of different things and activities. However, two leitmotifs that also keep re-appearing in the second half of the book are Tooth and the number five:

  • One day, Ma loses one of her teeth due to bad oral hygiene when she first came to Room. She calls it a ‘bad tooth’ and she is glad it is out and can not hurt her anymore. Jack keeps the tooth, taking it with him during his escape and his stay at Grandma’s. But the longer he has it, the less it reminds me of Ma. When he eventually loses it, Ma tells him not to worry. It shows that in the end of the book, Jack is more independent and does not rely on superficial factors like teeth to feel safe.
  • Five is Jack’s favourite number for multiple reasons. He just turned five years old, he has five fingers and toes, he has five books in Room, he gets to choose five toys, he wishes they lived on number five of the Independent Living Facility, they have five rooms in their new apartment and the book consists of five parts; five is a recurring number in the story. However, the number does not have any other symbolic meaning, although it might show that Jack has some perfectionist personality traits.

Where the title of Room came from is quite obvious; it is the small shed in which Ma and Jack are held captive that they call ‘Room’. The motto of the book would be the epigraph of the book:

“My child
Such trouble I have
And you sleep, your heart is placid;
you dream in the joyless wood;
in the night nailed in bronze,
in the blue dark you lie still and shine.”

“My child
Such trouble I have
And you sleep, your heart is placid;
you dream in the joyless wood;
in the night nailed in bronze,
in the blue dark you lie still and shine.”

Simonides (c. 556-468 BCE),
"Danaë" (tr. Richmond Lattimore)

This poem is about an Argive princess in the Greek Mythology called Danaë. Because an oracle told her father King Acrisius that the son of his daughter would kill him, he shut her up in a chamber so she could never get a grandson. However, Zeus, the king of the gods, desired her and he got her pregnant through golden rain which streamed in through the roof of her chamber. Soon after, she gave birth to her son Perseus. Fearing for his life, king Acrisius threw Danaë and Perseus into the sea in a wooden chest, but Zeus was able to rescue them. While not all aspects of this story are the same as the story of Room, the overall concept is the same: a mother and her son being imprisoned in a small space and eventually getting freed/escaping.


Emma Donoghue (1969) is an Irish-Canadian playwright, literary historian, novelist, and screenwriter. She was born in Ireland as the youngest of eight children. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from University College Dublin and a PhD in English from Girton College, Cambridge. During her time in Cambridge, she met a woman named Christine Roulston who later became her wife. They now live in Canada with their two children.

Donoghue’s first novel, ‘Stir Fry’, published in 1994, was a book about a young Irish woman discovering her sexuality. ‘Room’ was Donoghue’s seventh book. She based the story of Room on the ‘Fritzl case’, a 2008 court case in which a young Austrian woman was held captive by her own father and forced to have his children. ‘Room’ is based on the youngest child that was held captive, a five-year-old.


I really enjoyed reading this book. Even though I normally prefer reading books in Dutch, ‘Room’ was easy to understand and read. The story kept me on the edge of my seat, especially the part where Jack escapes intrigued me; it was so beautifully written and suspenseful! The amount of details that Jack gives about things and places really makes the story come to life.

I was also very fascinated by the decision to make Jack the main narrator of the story; I can imagine it being a difficult decision, since using a different narrator would have given the book a whole different feel. I could imagine having different people narrate it, such as Ma, Nick and Jack’s grandma, would have been interesting as well, to see things from different perspectives.

This book is about a horrible situation I could not even begin to imagine myself in. It is downright gut-wrenching and unbelievable thinking about how these cases sometimes happen in real life as well. The book itself is not written in a disturbing and frighting way, but many parts of the book do leave you with an uneasy feeling.

Overall, I think this is a good, well-written book and I would definitely recommend it to others.



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