trust your reader

Read ROOM by Emma Donoghue a few days ago. The characters and story lingered after I finished the book, but now I find it’s fading fast. I believe the reason is that the way the book is constructed – from the viewpoint of a five year old boy – there’s no space for the narrative to comment on the larger issues of freedom, abuse, or evil. There is the implicit comment, of course, but for a book to really stay with me, it needs to be able to rise and fall further than the confines this narrative allows. It is, however, a good study of conveying more by showing less. The author also does a great job of building tension, especially in buildup before the “After” section. The ending is also well done and a natural place to stop – a place when we can easily imagine continuing, yet satisfied with what’s been told. There are some lapses – the five year old is sometimes too precious, and I didn’t always buy that I was in the mind of a little boy. There are points where the use of language feels gimmicky and the narrative manipulative, but there are many more positives than negatives here. It is an excellent illustration of one way to accomplish what I discussed in the last post of leaving room (pun intended). The reader gets to participate in the story. Instead of having the boy witness the sex or have a narrator show it or shift POV, we have the boy, Jack, in a wardrobe in a dark room counting bed squeaks. Eww. Makes it so much creepier by leaving it in our imagination rather than detailing everything on the page. Donoghue trusts her reader… and has a book on the short list for the Man Booker Prize.

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