Saturday, November 27, 2010

A book worth talking about... Room

I've just read Room, by Emma Donoghue, and found it quite disturbing. I guess that was the intention of the author. However, what disturbed me most was not the story, but the sense of voyeurism it created. Perhaps it was written just too close in time to the real events involving the abduction and imprisonment of young girls in Austria and America. The media had a ball with these stories and speculation was rife. But how much time is a decent amount of time before such a highly charged personal ordeal becomes public property -  a story up for grabs - hot, because the real event is still pretty fresh in people's minds? After all, fiction writing is not journalism. A good fictional story doesn't really go cold... except, perhaps in terms of topicality and the short term memory associated with marketing. Are we now in for a glut of abduction stories? Are readers being force-fed fiction as fashion? Anyone who writes is always on the lookout for a writing prompt, but hi-jacking someone else's traumatic experience and turning it into loosely veiled fiction... well, I'm not sure about that. But that's just me. The Man Booker selection panel were not deterred. Any thoughts?

Room is written from a child's point of view. Jack has never experienced the world outside of the room in which he was born. It's a fascinating conjecture on the ability of the brain to normalize a very unusual situation. For me, the really interesting story is how this child might adapt and mature, or not, in the outside world. There have been many instances of children kept in unnatural situations and most have experienced cognitive and developmental problems. Jack had a loving mother with him who, within the confines of their room, created a world of facts and fantasy for him. He had no sense of loss or victimization.  However, as he matures, his priorities and values may turn out to be very different from his peer group... and therein lies another story.