Emma Donoghue's novel Room is inspired by the kidnapping and escape of Natascha Kampusch, and the Fritzl case in Austria. It tells the story of 5-year old Jack, whose whole life is confined to Room with his mother. They are being held there by 'Old Nick', a man who only comes at night and who Jack sometimes spies on through the cupboard doors.
The story is told from Jack's perspective, and so the reader is introduced to the "world" as Jack understands it. We learn that Jack is born inside Room. Jack believes Room is the world, and everything else is just TV.
Jack as a narrator works extremely well. The full seriousness of the situation for Jack and his mother is slowly revealed to the reader, but because Jack is an innocent, he accepts their lot matter-of-factly. The novel try to deal with very dark topics, but through Jack some of the sting is taken out. That does not mean the novel trivialised the issues, but rather that it prevents the novel from becoming too dark and broody. If the story had been written from the mother's perspective, we would be looking at a completely different type of work. Jack makes the incomprehensible evil which imprisons their lives accessible.
Although the novel deals with themes of imprisonment, there are many light moments, and the novel is surged with hope. Literary references to Alice in Wonderland, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Dora the Explorer all suggest that Jack as a character is somehow related to these. I will obviously not reveal how, but suffice to say that Jack does take a leap into the unknown, or enter the realm of the giants.
This is a novel which can be hard to read at times, but the reader has to get to the end (or the beginning?) of Jack's story. Despite some of its dark themes, Room is a beautiful story of love between mother and child, of hope and courage, and of building a world out of a tiny, barren room.
I recommend this book. It demands that you stop and think, that you feel and that you accept, in the same way Jack accepts, the world as it is presented to him.