ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Room, and other books by Emma Donoghue

Updated on January 21, 2018
SheilaMilne profile image

Reading for me has been an escape, entertainment, a teacher, even a lifeline, and I love to share this passion with other people.

I have recently started reading as many as possible of Emma Donoghue's books because I was so entranced by the first one. After I started on the third, I realised they all had something in common that might not be obvious at first sight. I will introduce them to you in the order I read them.


The blue cover of the book "Room" by Emma Donoghue
The blue cover of the book "Room" by Emma Donoghue

The first book I read

Recently I read a book that has made a great impression on me, and that was Room by Emma Donoghue. I don't quite know why I picked it up. Our local supermarket often has a shelf or two with second hand books for their chosen charity which they sell at truly minimal prices. The cover was by chance one that stood out on the shelf and the book looked new or at least hardly read. So I picked it up even though I know you aren't supposed to judge a book by its cover.

I show the cover that I saw in the introduction picture. It is the image from Amazon for the Kindle edition of the book in the USA, but it's used as the paperback cover in the UK.

About the book

The title gives very little away. Room. Is that a space bound by four walls or room for manoeuvre? You notice that it's not "The Room".

From the start the story is very unusual because the point of view and voice is that of a five year old boy, Jack, who lives with his mother, Ma, in a space which measures 11 feet by 11. In this Room, there is a door but it's locked and there is only one small skylight. It soon becomes obvious that Jack has no idea that anything exists beyond these four walls, that they contain his whole world. Anything he sees on the TV is make-believe.

He describes his life in Room and we learn that Jack is very well looked after by Ma (she is given no other name) in spite of the situation. However soon after Jack's fifth birthday Ma explains to him that there is an outside world. She plans their escape when it seems that the existing situation is changing and becoming dangerous.

All this is told in a child's voice with an admittedly advanced vocabulary. And yet I didn't find it difficult to believe it was a child speaking because his upbringing was so extraordinary. Grown up ideas and thoughts are introduced without taking away from the idea that you really are inside a child's mind.

Maybe this sounds to you like a gimmick, a five year old telling a story, but somehow it manages to ring true. Undoubtedly he is describing situations and thoughts that no ordinary child would do, but his situation is not ordinary and so I didn't find it unreasonable. His speech is unusual in that he "personifies" objects and calls them by proper names: Room, Rug, Plant, and so on, but it in no way distracted me and in fact I found it somehow refreshing.

Echoes from real life

The book was published in 2010, not long after the dreadful events in Austria, the Fritzl and Kampusch cases (more especially Fritzl) and in fact Emma Donoghue does say that the release of the Fritzl children (amongst several other things) did provide some inspiration.

It's hard not to draw parallels with the Austrian cases so I admit to finding it a little disappointing that the situation wasn't explored in more depth. However, in all, I really did enjoy the book, much more than I expected.

Next: Astray

The cover for the collection of short stories, Astray, by Emma Donoghue
The cover for the collection of short stories, Astray, by Emma Donoghue

Astray is a collection of short stories written between 1998 and 2012. They have in common the theme, as the title suggests, of travels, movement, displacement.

There are 14 stories, divided into groups: Departures, In Transit, Arrivals and Aftermaths. Apart from that theme, there is no connection at all between the stories.

One problem with short stories is often that the characters are undeveloped but this is most certainly not the case here. In spite of the brevity of the individual tales, you become totally involved and the characters will stay with you for a long time afterwards.

Possibly the part I enjoyed most was the short paragraph or two at the end of each story linking it to a piece of history, a letter, a document, a newspaper article, that had sparked Donoghue's imagination into producing such compelling stories.

The Sealed Letter

It's about 150 years ago since the setting of this story, close enough in time that you can associate with it, stories from grandparents and so on, and yet it also seems like another world. What must it have been like to have been a married woman in those days, with no rights of your own? "The Sealed Letter" will give you an insight into that, while you are totally involved in the plot.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and can easily understand why it was nominated for a prize. It is based on an actual divorce case which caused a scandal. By all accounts, divorce cases in Victorian times were almost by definition scandalous. Emma Donaghue weaves her story around the incidents and gives us an understanding of the society of the day and the beginnings of the movement for women's rights and emancipation. The characters were interesting: no black and white here, but plenty of shades of grey. They both repelled and intrigued me at various points along the way. I could both sympathise and, at the same time, deplore their actions, as I might in real life.

Best if all, from a totally personal viewpoint, were the few pages at the end of the story where the author tells us where the facts end and the fiction begins. I found that as compelling as the novel itself.

The Sealed Letter
The Sealed Letter
This is again a book based loosely on a real life incident, a divorce that scandalised Victorian Britain. It has won several awards and was nominated for the Orange Prize. Divorce in Victorian times was rare and of course far from "no fault", so the trial produced wild accusations.

About the author

Emma Donoghue is an Irish author now living in Ontario, Canada. She was born in Dublin into a family of eight children which couldn't be more unlike the situation for Jack in Room.

She has written seven novels and several short story collections as well as plays and literary history. "Room" was short listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2010, as well as the 2010 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the 2010 Governor General's Awards.

I downloaded the picture of the author from the link on her website.

Emma Donoghue by Andrew Bainbridge
Emma Donoghue by Andrew Bainbridge

A Quote from Audrey Niffenegger

Talking about "Room",

"A book to read in one sitting. When it's finished, you look up: the world looks the same but you are somehow different and that feeling lingers for days."

A Trailer for Room

This, of course, is the trailer of the book. Very recently I saw the trailer for the film, and for me it was a disappointment. Sometimes your own imagination is better than the people who want to do it all for you.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)