The new novel “Room” is written from the perspective of a precocious 5-year-old named Jack. Jack’s days are seemingly ordinary — his Ma reads him stories, he jumps on his bed, he helps make lunch. But what the reader soon notices is that the innocent life Jack is describing is set in a 12-by-12 underground cell where he and his mother have been kept in captivity since his mother’s kidnapping. Author Emma Donoghue, who is on the short list for this year’s Man Booker prize, talked with Metro about creating such a space.
It’s an unwritten rule in fiction not to write in the voice of a child, but yet you captured Jack so completely. Was it hard?
[Laughs] I didn’t know about that rule before I began but then I heard it often. I don’t mean to boast, but I didn’t find it any harder. I’ve written in the voice of 19th century male aristocrats and I find that a lot stranger to identify with. My son was in the house and five at the time so I guess that helped me get in the mindset.
How was your interpretation about the life of Jack and his mother influenced by such real-life captivity cases such as Josef Fritzl and Jaycee Dugard?
The Fritzl case made me ask big existential questions.?But it also made me think about the everyday experiences of parenting. As for Jaycee, I’d already written the book and it was being shopped around to publishers when she was discovered.
How did you capture minutia of the room so well?
I worked hard at making it feel very factual so the reader would believe in the rules of the room and the laws of space. I wanted them to grasp what the room was and what it represented.