Sunday, July 24, 2011

Room by Emma Donoghue (audio)

by Emma Donoghue
Narrated by Michal Friedman , Ellen Archer , Robert Petkoff , Suzanne Toren
Hachette Audio, 2010
10 hours, 52 minutes

Publisher's Summary:
To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.
Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.
Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

Why I listened:
I should begin by saying I made a conscious decision NOT to read Room. So many things about it turned me off: a five-year-old narrator, forced imprisonment, abuse. No, thank you. Besides, it sounded a little gimmicky.

When reviews began to appear, several bloggers I trust seemed to genuinely like Room. I was surprised, but still resisted. Eventually, a review of the audio version appeared in my google reader...intriguing, but did I really want to listen to a 5-year-old narrator for nearly eleven hours? Finally, during Audiobook Week, I won a twitter giveaway and selected Room as my prize.

The experience:
I was immediately captivated by Jack and his 'voice'. By the end of the first CD, I knew this was something special. Strangely enough, I also felt this would never work for me in print. Reading an entire book in a 5-year-old's language, even one as precocious as Jack, would simply be too tiresome.

Room had me looking for excuses to spend time in the car. Even the prospect of a dental appointment (30 minutes each way) was eagerly anticipated. By the end of the fifth CD, and with no further  plans to be alone in the car that day, I had to finish the book. Luckily, a print copy was available at the library. I went home and read the rest of the book in a single sitting.

Let me stress that this was not a disturbing or depressing book. It does deal with a horrific situation, but everything is filtered through Jack's level of understanding. Room is the work of a wonderfully creative and talented author.

A couple of things about the audio production stood out:
This is the first time I've listened to a book narrated by a child (or adult with a pitch-perfect child's voice), and it was my first experience with an audio that was partially 'dramatized'. I didn't think either would work for me but, again, I was surprised.

If you're at all curious, even if you've already read this one, I urge you to go to and listen to a sample of this audiobook. Jack may just charm you, too.

My rating:

Bottom line:
Room may just be my favorite audio this year.


  1. I read Room last year and I LOVED it. I am glad you liked it too. It took some getting used to reading his voice but after a while it seemed natural. This is one of my favorite books of all times.

  2. I've seen this book around and in the bookstore. I might give it a try based on your reaction.

  3. Good to know and I'm glad the experience was a positive one for you! When customers at the library approach the counter with it they are usually unsure about it. I'll be passing on your experience...any story that had you looking forward to a drive to the dentist must be good!

  4. Yes I loved this book, and if I hadn't won the printed book, I would have listened to the audio. Honestly, the five year old narration in print did not wear me out, at least once I got started, but it did some people. It really is a shame if people don't read this because they think it will be too depressing.

  5. I agree that the audio made a huge difference. I read a little in the book too just to see how I reacted, and it just didn't have the impact of the audio!

  6. I had no desire to read this one, either. But after your review and the comments of others, it may have to be my next audio...
    Loved your description of how hooked you became. But did you park the car in your driveway and listen before bringing the groceries/dry cleaning/whatever? I've done that. ;)

  7. Wow, glad to hear the audio was a huge success for you. I read the arc, and almost gave up trying to read jack's thoughts for the first 50 pages until, I got use to it. In the end I thought it was very good.

  8. I loved this book, but was a bit skeptical before reading it too. I am a little surprised that the audio worked so well for you, because I guess the 5 year old narration would freak me out a little bit. I suppose that's silly, since I had the same concern about the book and it turned out not to be an issue!

  9. Hillary - Can't believe I resisted reading this for so long. It will probably end up my favorite audio of the year!

    Harvee - If you like audiobooks at all, listen to the sample. It was amazing.

    Darlene - I knew it was something special when I was looking forward to visiting the dentist!! So glad I won the audio or I might never have listened!

    Sandy - I think reading the 5 year old voice would have been tough for me. By the time I picked up the actual book, Jack's voice was firmly in my head so it wasn't a problem.

    Rhapsodyinbooks - This is definitely one of those books where listening can make a huge difference. If I started out reading, I'm quite sure I wouldn't have finished.

    DS - Oh, yes... I'll admit to sitting in the driveway listening until the end of a chapter, etc. Listen to the sample of Jack's voice at and see what you think.

    Diane - I give you credit for sticking with the print version! Don't know if I could've endured, but it clearly would have been my loss.

    Reviewsbylola - Funny how many of us had basically the same concerns! I'm glad we were able to overcome them and read/listen to this amazing novel.

  10. I read the print version of this book and absolutely loved it, I think the author did a brilliant job of narrating the voice of a 5 year old boy. There were times I couldn't help but think of my own son while reading it and had my heart in my throat for him at times! I would love to read more of her work.

  11. I did not care for this book at all, but I listened to the sample and to me, his voice is even more contrived on audio than it was for me in print.

    For me, I just think it would have been more difficult (challenging) to write it from Ma's perspective.

  12. mummazappa - Glad to hear you enjoyed this, too. I know she has written at least a couple of other books. I wonder how they compare to Room.

    Ti - I agree this would have been a much more difficult book to write from Ma's perspective. I saw an article about A Stolen Life by Jaycee Lee Dugard in the paper this weekend. She was the victim of a similar crime, and Room was mentioned in the review. I'm kind of curious about it now. It took me almost a whole CD to get used to Jack's voice, but once I did I loved it. Can certainly understand how you might not be taken with it though.

  13. I'm so glad you listened to this and enjoyed it. I think you nailed it perfectly when you said this isn't a disturbing book because it's filtered through Jack's level of understanding. I was so amazed and impressed by Emma Donoghue's ability to write so convincingly from a 5-year old's point of view and keep the story interesting.

    (I'm going to give a listen to the audio version.)

  14. I'm glad you enjoyed it. The audio version intrigues me, especially that it was read by a child. Neat.

  15. I have a feeling that this is one audio that I might actually enjoy! Thanks for your thoughts on this one!!

  16. I won the book, but now you have me wanting to find the audio instead!

  17. Amy - I think the audio version definitely added another dimension to my experience.

    Staci - This may just be the one for you:-)

    Marie - I hope you decide to give the audio a chance. I never thought this would work for most surprising audio experience yet!

    Stacybuckeye - No, go ahead and read it. But listen to the sample on so you have Jack's voice in your head

  18. I don't usually enjoy enjoy audiobooks but this one does sound like I would enjoy it more on audio than in printed format. I've resisted reading this one for many reasons but I have it on my shelves and will definitely get around to it one way or the other.

  19. Kathleen - I think this is definitely one to listen to... even a combination listen/read like I did works!

  20. Hmmm, I loved the book and may just have to give the audio a listen, just to see what Jack sounds like!

  21. Les - I'm still surprised by how much I enjoyed this given my initial resistance. You don't need to listen to the whole book, but just click on the audible link for a sample. Jack's voice was amazing!

  22. I was not impressed with Room. I wonder if my reaction would have been different if I had listened to the audio instead of reading it as an ebook.

  23. Carol - Hmm. I wonder how you would have reacted to the audio. By the end of the first disk, I was positive that I would not have continued had I been reading! For some reason, the narration really made this work for me...

  24. I loved the print copy of this book when i borrowed it form the library last year... so much so that I went and bought myself a copy!!

    Glad you enjoyed it too.. must check out the audio version.

  25. Anothercookiecrumbles - Can see how this would be a book you'd want to own! Hope you get a chance to listen to an audio snippet.


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