Featured Review: “Room” by Emma Donoghue

Featured Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Cover: RoomIn a writer’s group I participate in someone recently asked for recommendations of novels to look at as examples in creating the voice of a child narrator.

I’ve always been interested in books with child narrators because I think one of the hardest jobs writers can set for themselves is the creation of a child’s voice. The successful portrayal of a child narrator involves not only age-appropriate vocabulary and sentence structure, but also a way of looking at the world that fits the child’s age.

Emma Donoghue does a remarkable job with 5-year-old Jack in the novel Room. When the book first came out, some critics said that Jack sounds much older than 5. They’re right: Jack doesn’t sound like a typical 5-year old.

But that’s because Jack isn’t a typical 5-year-old. He’s a child who has been confined to a single room for his entire life. The only person he’s had contact with is his mother, who has spent every moment of Jack’s 5 years looking out for him, trying to provide him as much stimulation as possible within their restricted environment. Jack has never talked to other children, only to his mother. I would have found it strange if Jack did sound like a typical 5-year-old.

Room is one of the best examples I know of how to create a convincing child narrator.

If you have a favorite novel narrated by a child, please let us know in the comment section.

‘America’s Final Beginning’ a clumsy, preachy novel written by a beginner

‘America’s Final Beginning’ a clumsy, preachy novel written by a beginner.

I offer this review as a good definition of what is commonly known as a “program novel” or a “propaganda novel”: a novel that is written to portray a message but that forgets the first requirement of a novel is to tell a good story and tell it well.

New Material Added to Notes in the Margin

Yesterday I added the following new material:

Most of this material is actually “old” notes that I’m just now getting around to posting after moving the site.

But the review of “V” Is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton really is new.

The Snowman by Jo Nesbø

The Snowman (Harry Hole, #7)The Snowman by Jo Nesbø

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Although I did find the story compelling, the beginning of this book really dragged for me. I imagine the slow, drawn-out opening might not be such a problem for Norwegian readers who have followed Harry Hole through the 6 previous novels, but coming in well into the series like this made it hard for me to get involved with Harry and all his personal angst.

View all my reviews

Scout, Atticus & Boo

Scout, Atticus & Boo – CSMonitor.com:

Yvonne Zipp, in Christian Science Monitor, reviews a new book issued to honor the fiftieth anniversary–July 11–of the publication of Harper Lee’s iconic novel To Kill a Mockingbird: “‘Scout, Atticus & Boo’ is a lovely celebration of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ And if, in the end, many of the interviews boil down to: This is a really, really good book… well, they’re right. “


Book review: Ron Charles reviews ‘The Lake Shore Limited,’ by Sue Miller

Book review: Ron Charles reviews ‘The Lake Shore Limited,’ by Sue Miller:

I didn’t much like Sue Miller’s first novel, The Good Mother. “But what did she EXPECT would happen?” I kept asking myself. “What was she thinking?” As a result, I haven’t read any of Miller’s subsequent novels.

But Ron Charles’s review of Miller’s latest novel, The Lake Shore Limited, has changed my mind. This is partly because he puts Miller’s work into a larger perspective:

There are several contenders (Anita Shreve, Gail Godwin), but Sue Miller might be the best poster child for the poison condescension bestowed by the term ‘women’s literature.’ She didn’t publish her first novel, ‘The Good Mother’ (1986), until she was in her 40s, but since then she’s been prolific and popular (another mark against her), writing about families and marriages, infidelity and divorce — what we call ‘literary fiction’ when men write about those things. Last year, a grudging review of ‘The Senator’s Wife’ in That Other East Coast Newspaper claimed that Miller’s novels ‘feature soap-opera plots,’ a mischaracterization broad enough to apply to any story that doesn’t involve space travel or machine guns.

Miller’s exquisite new novel, ‘The Lake Shore Limited,’ is so sophisticated and thoughtful that it should either help redeem the term ‘women’s literature’ or free her from it once and for all.

But it’s also because Charles describes Lake Shore Limited as containing “the relentless psychological analysis found in Henry James’s novels.” Centered around 9/11, the novel uses the device of a story within a story (in this case, a play within a novel) to examine “with stark honesty” what Charles calls “emotional terrain some people won’t feel comfortable in.” Since literature IS psychology, this sounds like a book I must read.