Tag Archives: 2010 Indie Lit Fic Shortlist Finalist

Review: Room

Room Book Cover

By Emma Donoghue
Little Brown & Company
September 2010

The Short of It:

Room boasts an original premise but falls flat from overly simplistic writing and one-dimensional characters.

The Rest of It:

*No Spoilers*

For those who are not aware of the premise, a young woman is abducted and forced to live in a room that is only 11 x 11 in size. There, she gives birth to a baby boy by the name of Jack. As Jack grows-up, his main source of information comes from his mother and what she chooses to teach him, as well as the knowledge he obtains from the few amenities afforded to him while in captivity.

The story is told from Jack’s point of view. This works to a degree, in that it makes it easier to read. At five years of age, Jack doesn’t fully understand what is going on. As a reader, I was comforted by his innocence but also felt an overwhelming sense of sadness about their situation. In this sense, using Jack as the storyteller worked.

We’re shown early on that Jack is an exceptional child. His vocabulary, for a child in his particular situation is quite advanced. This is where I had problems with believability. The conversations that he has with his mother (only known as Ma) don’t match his every day thought processes. He thinks as a five-year-old would,  but there were spots where he speaks like a much older child. This struck me as odd and pulled me out of the narrative many times.

As we get further into the story, I wanted to know more about Ma. I wanted to hear her point of view but we never get that. In fact, her real name is never revealed. She is just known as “Ma” and to me, not giving her an identity seemed almost criminal.

Without giving away the plot, I will say that the second half of the book is quite different from the first half. Whatever pulled me in during that first half, was gone by the second half. I felt as if the author threw things in to make the story more plausible. She was correct to do it, as plausibility is key to a story like this, but what she tossed in wasn’t fully fleshed out. It seemed formulaic to me and not written from the heart. Because of it, I lost that connection to the characters and in a book that only has a character list of just a few people, that’s not good.

To sum it up, Donoghue did an excellent job of creating the room itself. Deciding what it would contain, where things were placed, considering all of the logistics such as how to deal with the food supply issue or health related issues, etc.  I felt as if I were in that room with them. She also did a great job with the day-to-day activities that Ma and Jack engaged in. However, the story petered out for me in that second half. Jack seemed to lose his voice and Ma, who I really wanted to care about, became unlikable.

I think I would have liked this book quite a bit more had it been told from Ma’s point of view. It would have been a different book for sure, but I think it would have had the depth that this book lacked.

2010 Indie Lit Awards Lit Fic Finalist

I read this for the 2010 Indie Lit Awards.

Source: Purchased

Review: C

C Book Cover

By Tom McCarthy
Knopf Doubleday
September 2010

The Short of It:

As if written in code, C is a novel that needs to be interpreted before it can be appreciated.

The Rest of It:

The cover should have warned me. It depicts a lovely chap covered in Morse Code. The blips, the dashes…all serve as a warning for what is contained within the pages but I plowed forth and pushed through the first half and what a first half it was!

The story begins around the turn of the 20th century at Versoie House, a school for the deaf.  This is a deaf school like no other. Here, the students are not taught to sign. Instead, they are encouraged to vocalize their wants via an abbreviated language focusing on long and short sounds. Mr. Carrefax, the founder of the school is also a scientist. He’s fascinated with the idea of wireless communication and spends much of his time out in his workshop.

While puttering around his shop, his wife is in the midst of delivering their son. He sort of leaves her to her business and their son is born. In an environment focusing on communication, Serge Carrefax is born into silence as his mother is deaf, and to top it off, he greets the world with a caul over his head. For those who are superstitious, a caul usually means that the child will be gifted in some way, or that he will be able to predict the future. This led me to believe that Serge would become a very important person later in life. Not so.

Serge ends up poisoned. He begins to leach blackness out of his body (think carbon) and his vision is covered by a dark veil. Now, I read this part carefully and I do believe the poisoning was done by his sister Sophie. She fed him poisoned berries. Whether intentional or not, it doesn’t really matter because Sophie kills herself when she finds herself impregnanted by her father’s close friend. Serge, grief-stricken over Sophie’s death and leaching out this horrible blackness, heads to a spa that specializes in such things. The doctor, though very odd in his ways, manages to cure Serge.

It’s at this point that things get very weird. Things happen. I say things because the writing was so disjointed in places that I had a hard time figuring out what was going on.

McCarthy manages to create Serge without any admirable qualities. He’s not wretched, at least not in an obvious way, but he’s composed of cells and matter and that’s about it. Oh, and of course Carbon which is the element of life and what the title of the book represents.

As for the rest of the story, Serge meets people, has a great deal of sex, becomes addicted to cocaine and heroin and fights in the Great War. I wouldn’t say that he stumbles through life because he doesn’t. He does everything with a purpose but one wonders about the end result.

I’ve never met a character like Serge. I know virtually nothing about him and it seems that McCarthy did this intentionally. I mean, why follow a man through life if you care nothing about him? After thinking about it a bit and considering the meaning of the title, I’ve come to the conclusion that the entire book is about the components of life, but not life itself. Therefore, Serge is just one of many pawns inhabiting the planet.

After figuring this out, I went back through the novel and things that I had overlooked before or only glanced at briefly, began to make sense.

This was not an easy book to read. It had to be decoded  and picked apart and since there is so little in the way of character development, many will find it difficult to read.  I, on the other hand, sort of enjoyed it by the time I finished. As humans, we are just another form of life. No different from the insects or animals that we share space with. It’s quite humbling to be reduced to nothingness in a world as vast as ours.

2010 Indie Lit Awards Lit Fic Finalist

I read this for the 2010 Indie Lit Awards and it was also shortlisted in 2010 for the Man Booker Prize.

Source: Purchased