Adaptation: Room

Adaptation is a series that examines the film adaptations of some of the books I’ve read (and vice versa). **Warning – there may be spoilers if you have yet to read the book or watch the movie!**

room poster

A Quick Summary: Jack has lived in Room his whole life, but when he turns 5, he learns that an entire world exists outside of Room.

Did you read the book or watch the movie first? I read Emma Donoghue’s Room last September and wrote about it here At the time, I didn’t realize it would be a movie coming out this year as well. I finally made time to go see it at the Angelika this week.

egg snakeHow were the book and movie different? I think the movie was able to truly capture how claustrophobic and small Room was in a way that the book was not. I thought that Brie Larson was phenomenal. She exuded a quiet combination of strength and emotional turmoil, and I found her much more likable than the Ma in the book.

How were the book and movie the same? I think one of the best parts of having Emma Donoghue write both the book and the screenplay is that the themes and tone of the book did not get lost during the adaptation. I was worried that the movie would sexualize Ma or play up the gruesome aspects of the book, but we truly get a movie about the bond between mother and child in spite of terrible circumstances.

room

Parting Thoughts: I think that Emma Donoghue was a little too sentimental to her own writing. There were long voiceovers in the movie of Jack reading (what seemed like pages) from the book. I thought it worked well at first to help set the scene, but I found it more distracting than anything else later on. Overall, I was pleased to find the same strong female protagonist and I was amazed by Jacob Tremblay’s portrayal of Jack (the actor is only 9!) However, since this wasn’t one of my favorite-books-of-all-time, I would probably recommend either reading or watching it, but wouldn’t encourage doing both.

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Other Posts in the Adaptation Series:

 

 

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Books I Read in September

September was a very crazy whirlwind kind of month. I took a trip to Alabama, threw a party, got sick, recovered & got sick again, and have been scrambling to be prepared for my classes in my free time. I was genuinely expecting not to have time to read at all, so looking back I was pleasantly surprised to have read 7 books this month. There were a lot of hits, and a few misses. I present to you, in chronological order:

wind-up birdHaruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – The book starts with the search for a missing cat and quickly derails into something else entirely. The characters in this book are some of the more magical and intense ones that I have encountered in his books, and I loved how he interspersed the novel with memories and other people’s stories. I loved the story of the zoo keeper, which seems to be a recurring motif in this month’s books. Murakami is able to turn the most gruesome and horrific things into a surreal and dreamlike kind of horror. When the book is over, you feel like you are coming out of a long trance – which to me, is such a specific feeling and experience that comes from reading a Murakami.

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Between the World and MeTa-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me – This book is constructed as a letter to Coates’ fifteen-year-old son about the realities of living as a Black man in America. I have had a hard time processing this book, which I think is precisely Coates’ objective.The book forces you to confront a lot of difficult issues; it will outrage you and make you want to cry. It will make you feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, but I think by doing that, it forces you to try to come up with solutions and start a conversation with other people.

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mad about the boyHelen Fielding’s Bridget Jones Mad About the Boy – Over fifteen years since we last saw Bridget Jones, Helen Fielding’s third book picks up with a middle-aged Bridget. A lot has changed, she is in her fifties, has two children, and has been widowed. However, Bridget has not changed much otherwise, she may have even regressed – she just has more on her plate. Now she counts both calories eaten and nits found in her childrens’ hair, Twitter followers gained and number of parents enraged. I’d say skip the book and hope Renee Zellweger signs on for a third movie.

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life of pi

Yann Martel’s Life of Pi – It only took me a few years, but I finally got around to reading Life of Pi. I have even been putting off the movie until I’ve read the book. One problem with reading a book so many years after its critical acclaimed debut is that your expectations are too high. I was definitely a little underwhelmed by the book, although I would still want to watch the movie. There were a few parts that I really loved, and I loved the ending of the book as well. Interestingly, this is the second book I read this month with a main character whose father was a zookeeper. Isn’t that a funny coincidence?

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Room (1)Emma Donoghue’s Room – I already wrote about Room earlier this week. I am really looking forward to the movie this fall. The book was loosely inspired by the true facts of the Fritzl case, which emerged in Austria in 2008. It’s an absolutely horrifying story of a woman named Elisabeth who was hidden and held by her father for 24 years. I have kind of struggled over whether it is wrong for me (and others) to find pleasure in some of these horrific stories, whether it’s a book like this or watching a violent crime show. What do you think? I think on the one hand it can either show the beauty and resilience of human nature, on the other, is it making us less sensitive to the real-life crimes occurring around us?

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Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance

Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance – I also wrote about this earlier this week (I am getting better about writing timely reviews!) so I will leave you with a quote.

“Spend more time with people, less time in front of a screen, and—since we’re all in it together—be nice to people.”

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go set a watchman Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman – The much anticipated and controversial follow up to To Kill a Mockingbird has left me struggling to reconcile it with the characters that I grew up with and loved. I have been reading a lot of reviews and think pieces about this book now that I’ve read it for myself. I will say that I found the flashbacks to be absolutely perfect: Jem, Scout & Dill playing in their backyard in the summertime, Scout’s first school dance. Harper Lee shows us that she has always possessed a really wonderful way with language and vocabulary. Her wit is as sharp as ever, and I found myself barking with laughter at parts, but cringing through other parts.

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If you only read one book from this list, read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. What did you read in September? What should I read in October?

Book Review: Room, Emma Donoghue

Room (1)

Room, by Emma Donoghue, has been on my to-read list for the longest time. I recently found it for $2 at my favorite used bookstore, and after seeing the trailer for the upcoming eponymous movie, I finally got around to reading the book. All I can say is Wow!

To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world. . . . It’s where he was born, it’s where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. 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’s the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack’s curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.

Room is entirely written from the perspective of Jack, who has quite an impressive vocabulary for someone his age. Emma Donoghue is able to turn such a harrowing and gruesome story into a story about love, hope, and relationships. The book also manages to work in a hilarious and sharp social commentary and observations in our modern society. I found myself laughing a lot more than I thought possible. Once I picked it up, I was unable to put it down until I finished the book!

I especially liked the character of Ma. She is trying her best to protect Jack from the world, but she is lost and confused as well. Jack is all that she has in Room with her, and we see her struggle between treating him like her child, her friend, and her co-conspirator. She is such a strong, imperfect and flawed character, and I think Donoghue was able to convey a lot about her through Jack’s voice. There are parts that Jack doesn’t understand, but we, the readers, are able to read between the lines and glean an extra layer of truth about what is really going on. I wouldn’t describe this book as a “thriller” – it isn’t gory or suspenseful in the way thrillers are, but there is a certain quality about it that will send chills down your spine and keep you turning pages.

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I would recommend this book for readers who like strong female characters, books written from a non-traditional point of view, and fans of Law & Order and Orange is the New Black.

Additional Reading:

  • The subject matter of the book is very dark – there may be triggers for some people, so I would advise you to approach this book with caution!
  • There are always resources for survivors of sexual assaults. For more information, please consider reading about SAVA or RAINN.
  • Room will soon be coming to a theater near you! Check out the trailer here.
  • Buy the book here or read an excerpt here.