ur nightmares are filled with fears of claustrophobia, feelings of imminent danger and monsters. The monsters of our dreams don’t exist, but some people give it their best shot. Well Jack the hero of our story lives in a nightmarish world blissfully unaware of the dangers and monsters around him; he is just five years old.
In this gripping novel inspired by the terrible events around the Fritzl family that rocked the world in 2008, Jack grows up with his mother who we only know as “Ma” in a room that is an eleven foot by eleven foot cube. It is furnished with a bed called Bed, a television called TV, a wardrobe called Wardrobe and a rug called Rug. We come to realise that Ma and Jack are incarcerated in this one room prison and the only outside contact is a mysterious man who comes in the night bringing supplies. When the man comes Ma hides Jack in a wardrobe. In a bid to save the sanity of her son, Ma has told Jack that everything he sees on TV is fake and that they and – as they both adopt Jack’s five-year-old vernacular – Room are the only things that are real. One-day Ma decides to bring Jack’s safe idea of reality crashing down around him by telling him of a place called Outside and that she wants to escape.
There are heart-breaking touches of detail which really develop the atmosphere and help transport us into the world of the book. Such details include the “Scream” game passed off as a fun, innocent game by Ma, but which are secretly desperate calls for help, and the days where Ma “goes away” i.e. doesn’t get out of bed all day due to crushing depression. It is somewhat uncomfortable for the reader to view the horrific world around Jack knowing that he has no idea of the suffering his mother is going through.
I really loved this book for both the engrossing storyline and for drawing attention to the power struggle between the media and the privacy of the people at the heart of a story. I also thought that the incredibly close relationship between Ma and Jack and then their subsequent relationships force us to re-evaluate what we call family.
heart-breaking touches of detail develop the atmosphere and transport us into the world of the book
Surprisingly, given the subject matter, this book has light-hearted, almost funny, moments and this is largely thanks to Jack’s five-year-old first person narration which, far from making the book inaccessible, is necessary to make the story readable due to the dreadful topic at hand.