The odds were stacked against Room; I really didn’t think I’d like it.
A novel set entirely in a single room sounded like a grind and the mother/son relationship at its core inevitably sappy and sentimental. The five year-old narrator sounded like a gimmick and the real-life Josef Frtizl connection seemed cheap and exploitative.
I’m also naturally inclined towards scepticism of these mega-selling ‘phenomenon’ books simply because most of them leave me underwhelmed. Whether it’s The Lovely Bones or The Hunger Games or The Kite Runner – maybe it’s just an effect of the hype but they all leave me cold.
Happily, Room is a breed apart from these – a truly great novel that deserves the plaudits.
It’s a tender, thoughtful book that uses high concept to reveal universal truths about childhood and parenting and resilience and time.
It’s intensely readable – I found myself devouring 100 pages at a time – with two believable and thoroughly three-dimensional characters at its centre.
I was sceptical too when the book changed gears dramatically at the half way point, but was surprised and impressed at how the second half added real weight and depth to what would have been an otherwise conventional tale of captivity and escape, degradation and redemption.
I’ll update this review with a few thoughts on the movie when I see it in the coming weeks.
Next: a black and white circus.