Room by Emma Donoghue

RoomWell, what an incredible story this is. I couldn’t write this review straight away after reading it… I had to let it settle inside me, and yet settle isn’t the right word at all. A story like this leaves a woman somewhat unsettled. This story has come up often in conversations with others that I hear have read it. I would recommend it to almost anyone.

The story is not based on true events but was inspired by true events. However, I think the way the feelings are described leaves you feeling anguish for Ma and Jack as though they really are real live people who have gone through this. As a Mother, I was in awe of the way Ma managed to raise Jack and teach him about his life and surroundings in a way that fostered learning and yet shielded him from the ghastly story that is his history. How could a mum do it any other way, you simply wouldn’t want your child to know there was a life outside that was free and happy without fear – not if you couldn’t let your child go into that good world. So Ma taught him everything and incorporated trying to escape (screaming at the skylight) into their routine without Jack understanding the enormity of their situation. The Room, all 11 feet square was the entire world to Jack. He was happy with it and Ma and their Sunday Treats as he knew nothing else … but he did feel uneasy about Old Nick. Ma’s protection of him was absolute. Old Nick had an easy prisoner for those years that Jack was too young – no way would Ma risk Jack, so she stayed put and made the best of an awful situation.

 

SPOILER ALERT: (of sorts) once they leave the Room and get out into the world, they both have a lot of adjusting to do. You are reminded that Ma was a teenager, and quite innocent of so much, when she was taken… she had no-one to teach her about womanhood, never mind about motherhood. What a difficult transition is before her.

I could write about this story all day… suffice to say – You should read it yourself.  There is nothing graphic really, except your own imagination. Some moments make your skin crawl because you understand so much more than little Jack about what it is he’s describing.

This is an intense and powerful story. Really quite incredible… and recounted through the eyes of Jack who turned five on the first page.  I’m not sure which moved me more: the opening scene in a world that we know is awful and yet to Jack is simply quite normal; or the closing scene… where I felt Ma’s tremble of courage, and the relief of letting go.

Just read it.

Goodreads or  Amazon 

A Brave Day for Harold Brown by Mishana Khot

Mishana was promoting this book and I read the first few paragraphs online… I enjoyed these opening paragraphs,liking the style of writing and the way the author spoke to me, it felt familiar, as though a favourite storyteller was back. However,when I got to this line:

“Little did Harold know, a strange new wind was blowing that morning.”

– I knew there was something really enjoyable to follow. I contacted Mishana and she kindly sent me a copy to review, but be assured my review is completely unbiased.

Harold BrownI really enjoyed “Harold Brown” – I like the way the author described his very neat and ordered life, one he seemed quite satisfied with… and yet when I read the part about his childhood I could immediately get a sense of the stifled boy inside. A great description of how an event in your childhood will shape who you are from the inside, this can be good or can be a bit sad… Some things can be shut away, but they never really leave you.

Each character is beautifully described, and although there is little description about the gypsy fortune teller, the way her voice is written, gives a clear understanding of how very different she is to Harold. Harold’s reliable assistant, Mrs Springer, is a real sweetie… somehow you just know she’s the one you can talk to if you’re having a hard day.

The Tiger himself is beautifully described and matching Harold’s new found knowledge from his books, he offers the reader (or listener) a vivid picture of this majestic creature. The interactions at the circus are well described, and Harold’s inner turmoil is adorable! The scenes of Harold and the Tiger looking at each are quite lovely.
And by the way, a good book cover will often give you a sense of whether you’ll like the story inside – this is no exception – Bravo to the artist of the wonderful cover design.

I think this story would be lovely for a younger (primary school age) if read by their parents, or older youth to YA reading themselves. It is a simple story but told in a clean eloquent way that leads the reader’s imagination. It’s a very enjoyable story, I am more than happy to recommend Harry Brown to other readers.

I gave this 5/5 on Goodreads.  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23153267-a-brave-day-for-harold-brown  …  have a look for it here: http://www.amazon.com/Mishana-Khot/e/B00N8RHKXM/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

The Big Egg ( a children’s book by Emily Gravett)

Odd EggWhat a delightful book to read to your toddler … if you don’t have one of your own then borrow a niece or nephew.
The illustrations are detailed and really quite beautiful, I love the way some pages were trimmed to show a sequence, very clever.
Very cute ending for duck and his egg …. and a gorgeous support cast of other egg-layers.

There are many elements that offer points for discussion: these include mums and dads (duck is a boy), what love is all about, waiting for something you really want,  and ways to show you care about someone – I love the scarf and shoes in the last scene.

Also perhaps, you discuss the “Nurture over Nature” subject, I think this could useful for parents of an adopted child, or perhaps for a “non-traditional” family, with maybe dads and no mums or what ever way your family is made up. No, there are no clearly defined sexist/gender roles… it’s a simple story that show a collection of Mum waiting for their eggs to hatch, along comes Duck who is later described as “he” who also wants a child.

I see some reviews have expressed concern over the ending…. I want to be clear that I think the ending was really sweet… and surprising for everyone. I can’t imagine a kid actually being scared unless the reader makes it so.

SPOILER ALERT…

the Snap!! can be interpreted in lots of ways. I was more surprised by some reviews (warning that it may be scary), than I ever was at the baby croc hatching, but love wins out in the end.  (And in response to one comment I read  – no – it’s not correct for size in relation to the other creatures. Just get over it – it’s called artistic license :)

I give this gorgeous wee story 5 stars – I know my panel of experts would have agreed if they were still getting bedtime stories from me!

Goodreads/The Big Egg

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Boy in Striped PJEveryone should read this. Absolutely Stunning. I was swept into this time and place, and saw the world through Bruno’s eyes… and felt all the emotions as he did. Until the end of course, then I felt what a mother would.

A boy Bruno’s age should be free to play – just as he thought, and did… this story shows how individuals can be swept along so easily by the currents around them. Even the characters that knew things were wrong did nothing to change it because there were expectation upon them.

Feeling the tensions mount, and understanding the deeper meaning behind some of the conversations gives the reader a perspective that perhaps the characters themselves would have wished to have. The story unfolds of course, to charged emotions and tragic consequences.

Beautifully written, raw and tragic, harsh at times but this is such a good read.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39999.The_Boy_in_the_Striped_Pajamas