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Friday, November 26, 2010

ROOM by Emma Donoghue

I don't often read a book that has 291 Amazon reader reviews. I checked just now because I thought I'd get a glimmer of comfort knowing somebody else had such a strong negative reaction to this novel. I didn't have the heart to plow through all those reader reviews, however. Especially since the ones Amazon chooses to put near the top are, of course, pretty much selected to get us to buy the book, right?

Like a lot of the books I read for pleasure, this one came to me via a very positive review. Then the book was short-listed for a Booker Prize. And it got not one, but two fairly glowing New York Times reviews. (Actually Janet Maslin's was not that glowing, really.)

This week NPR came out with its list of the top five most talked about books of the year, and ROOM was right there. OK, I'll give them that. It's sure being talked/ blogged/ read about.

And just now, another award.

For whatever reasons, a few weeks ago I reserved the book through my county library system. I think I started out somewhere around #58. And moved slowly up the list. Frustratingly slow. I was really looking forward to this reading experience. And come on, reading people, the book isn't that long. Why was it taking forever?

Then I got the book. I opened it right up. Couldn't wait.
And I hated it.

I think it's the voice of the young boy that bugged me. Maybe it was the pace of the writing. The general ick factor? I don't know. Everyone's taste in books is different, starting with the youngest readers. I know that from many years of librarianship. But I usually find some redeeming quality in a book so well reviewed.

(I have one theory. What do you think about this? Reviewers are raving about the"voice"- that elusive quality that everybody loves but no one can truly define. Yes, narrator Jack is a 5-year-old boy with a distinctive voice. But I read a LOT of YA and Middle-grade fiction with kid narrators whose voices are equally distinctive. For example, last night I opened Kathryn Erskine's Mockingbird, the National Book Award winner in the 2010 Young People's Literature category. That narrator-- a young girl with Asperger's-- is an amazing voice. And another nominee? One Crazy Summer? I can still hear those kids!)

But I forced myself to keep reading ROOM. By the middle I was skimming. The story picked up a bit as the boy and his mother's story moved out of its cramped quarters. I did finally finish, sort of.

"Truly memorable" one reviewer claims. I'm just not buying it. For me, not memorable at all.

Related post: Quitting Before Finishing

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