Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Two Wonderful Books Written from a Unique Point of View



Room, by Emma Donoghue  got my attention in the second hand shop, and something about it made me buy it, but it sat on my shelf for about a year and each time I picked it up and was reminded of the subject matter, I didn't feel ready to read it.  The main characters of this story are a young woman and her small son, Jack.  They are held captive by a sexual predator, in a garden shed built just for that purpose.  Room is the only home Jack knows, the strange life as prisoners is the only life he knows, but his mother has made it as safe and magical for him as any childhood life should be.  Five year old Jack is the narrator, and as the story is told through his eyes, we come to know the remarkableness of his mother and the horror of her situation is filtered for us, made into a tender story of love, strength and survival. 

The narrator, Jack, is not only a small child but he is also a very unique child and the ability with which this author can use his voice to tell the story is astounding.  He is very sincere, earnest, honest and often funny.  He knows no other world and it is some time before Ma can even explain to him that there is a world outside of their confinement.  She is plotting their escape but how will Jack cope with this?  Through Jack's eyes we see Ma, her patience, her love, her intelligence and the toll the ordeal takes on her.

The skill in storytelling, the unusual plot where the climax seems to come about half way through the book and yet there is more to the story which is still compelling, and of course the unusual narrator of the story make this book one of my best reads in 2013.  

Excerpt from the Author's Website :

Room(London: Picador; Toronto: HarperCollins Canada; New York: Little Brown, 2010), my Man-Booker-shortlisted seventh novel, is the story of a five-year-old called Jack, who lives in a single room with his Ma and has never been outside. When he turns five, he starts to ask questions, and his mother reveals to him that there is a world beyond the walls. Told entirely in Jack’s voice, Room is no horror story or tearjerker, but a celebration of resilience and the love between parent and child.

A personal note: Room was inspired by… having kids; the locked room is a metaphor for the claustrophobic, tender bond of parenthood. I borrowed observations, jokes, kid grammar and whole dialogues from our son Finn, who was five while I was writing it. Room was also inspired by... ancient folk motifs of walled-up virgins who give birth (e.g. Rapunzel), often to heroes (e.g. Danaë and Perseus).  Room was also inspired by… the Fritzl family’s escape from their dungeon in Austria – though I doubt I’ll ever use contemporary headlines as a launching point again, since I didn’t like being even occasionally accused of ‘exploitation’ or tagged ‘Fritzl writer’.  But on the whole, publishing my seventh novel – and having the great good fortune to win new readers all over the world – has been a delight.  


 Reviews and Summaries:

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7937843-room
http://www.amazon.ca/Room-Emma-Donoghue/dp/1443413690






The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak is marketed as a young adult novel but as far as I can tell, the only reason for that is the combination of a young protagonist and the lack of sex and swearing.  This is a book for everyone over the age of ten.  Now a movie, if you haven't seen it do read the book first!  This bitter sweet story is narrated by Death.  Death gives us snippets of information about himself but he is not the main subject of the story.  He tells the story of a remarkable life he witnessed.  The story of Liesel, the book thief.   The prose is crafted so well you hardly notice it.  Much of the story is told with dialogue and the voices of the different characters come through clearly.  You will grow fond of them all and with some that will surprise you.

The story takes place leading up to and during the Second World War and in a small town in Germany.  This is why Death is so involved.  War keeps him very busy.  As with real life, there are sad moments, touching moments, banal moments and joyful moments in Liesel's life.  She is taken to live with a foster family and is soon being tenderly cared for and taught to read by her foster father, a remarkable man who possess such sweetness and understanding it is refreshing to see this portrayed in a male character.  His wife, on the other hand, is a force to be reckoned with.  The story of Liesel's life, her passon for reading and books, of growing up with poverty and with love, takes a different turn when her foster family hides a Jewish man in their basement at great risk and with the potential to greatly change Liesel's life yet again.  This is a time of war.  There is loss, pain and sorrow, but there is also joy, love and hope.  The tone of Death is kept very neutral, non-religious and yet it offers some comfort.  Death is not unkind, he is not without sympathy and understanding.  He craddles souls in his arms as he carries them gently away.

Reviews and Summaries:

http://www.amazon.ca/The-Book-Thief-Markus-Zusak/dp/0375842209
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19063.The_Book_Thief

The author about the movie

7 comments:

  1. I read "The Book Thief" not long ago and I reeeeeaaally didn't like it :D I loved the prose, the rich vocabulary, but I felt the whole story was overused and overrated. Maybe I wasn't in the mood for drama, I don't know :D
    "Room" sounds like a very interesting concept. I'm going to check it out :)

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    1. I think it is so fascinating how people react differently to books. I have experienced really disliking something everyone else was raving about. I felt that way about The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, which all my friends loved. The author of The Book Thief says he originally thought it would be a short story. Maybe that would have worked better for you. ;-)

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  2. Both of these look really good! I wanted to read The Book Thief after I saw that there was a book before the movie, now it seems I must :D

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    1. I have sometimes enjoyed both book and movie but usually I find the book superior. There is just so much within a book that is impossible to translate into a movie. I read that Room is going to be made into a movie as well and that the author is the one working on the screen play.

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  3. I read Room recently too and was very impressed. Sustaining the narrative voice while allowing the reader to see the mother's perspective too is quite a hard trick to pull off, and as you say, you think the climax has come halfway through, but the unfolding of events after the escape is just as intriguing and touching. I loved this book.
    I thought I was the only person in the world who hadn't read The Book Thief; I bought it for my daughter, but maybe I should try it. xxx

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    1. My good friend said it made the rounds in her family. Everyone read it and enjoyed it, though it was her middle daughter who first brought it home. I am often a bit behind in reading the latest books, so perhaps you are the only person in the world who hasn't read it-lol. I have a stack of books yet to read that is so enormous and it contains books that are old and new and I happily pick whatever I'm in the mood for.

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  4. I have also not read The Book Thief or Room which sounds like a great read. I also have a pile of books that I want to read so will go through them slowly. Thanks for inspiring us with your wonderful reviews of the books you are reading.

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