Book review | Room by Emma Donoghue


“After nap we do Scream every day but not Saturdays or Sundays. We clear our throats and climb up on Table to be nearer Skylight, holding hands not to fall. […] Then we shush with fingers on lips. I asked Ma once what we’re listening for and she said just in case, you never know” (50).

Room was on my TBR list for a while now and I am so incredibly glad I finally got to it, because this novel simply blew me away. Room tells about five-year-old Jack and his mother who live in Room. They never leave Room. Ever. Old Nick comes to Room sometimes when it is night. Jack has never seen Old Nick from up close, only through the slats of Wardrobe. Old Nick brings them food and every Sunday they can ask for a Sunday treat. His mother wants to go to Outside and so they come up with a plan.

Emma Donoghue chose a challenging subject for this novel and she picked an unusual character to tell the story. The entire novel is written from Jack’s perspective with a five-year-old’s use of language, grasp of reality and view of the world. As is often the case with a child narrator in an adult novel, the reader is more knowledgeable than the narrator. Jack gives the reader a brutally honest view of his life, his mother’s situation and our world in general.

By selecting an innocent and inexperienced storyteller, Emma Donoghue on the one hand lightens the load of the book. Jack’s wonder and cheer make this gruesome story bearable and less dark. On the other hand certain situations in the novel are even more shocking, because they are told by a child. Although Jack fails to understand certain horrid events, the reader does not.

With 401 pages in my edition it is a novel of average length, but it reads like a short story. If you are able to see the world through Jack’s eyes, it might make you question what most of us take for granted and change your perception of the world. Room is a devastatingly beautiful novel and I would definitely recommend it.

Donoghue, Emma. Room. London: Picador, (2010) 2011.

Book-to-movie adaptation | My Sister’s Keeper


“Having a child who is sick is a full-time occupation. Sure, we still enjoy the usual day-to-day happinesses of family life. Big house, great kids, beautiful wife. But beneath the exterior, there are cracks, resentments, alliances that threaten the very foundation of our lives as at any moment our whole world could come tumbling down.” (00:04:55-00:05:21).

Warning, warning: spoiler alert for both book and movie.

I basically spent last night looking at a screen choked up and crying, because I wanted to discuss the book-to-movie adaptation of My Sister’s Keeper on my blog. I first watched the movie when it came out in 2009. I read the book and did a book review of My Sister’s Keeper two weeks ago. Since I watched the movie before I read the book, my perception of the movie adaptation of Jodi Picoult’s novel is not entirely unbiased. There are many small distinctions between the book and movie, but I will focus on three major ones.

Short synopsis: Young Anna has undergone countless of procedures to help save her older sister Kate. Kate has been battling leukemia since she was two. Anna is a designer baby conceived in order to be a bone marrow donor for Kate. Anna’s life and that of her entire family revolve around Kate’s health. When Kate needs one of Anna’s kidneys to survive, Anna sues her parents for the rights to her own body with the help of lawyer Campbell.

One of the major contrasts between the book and movie for me was the portrayal of family life. The movie shows a warm family that would give up the world for each other. Kate’s disease influences the family tremendously, but they are still able to create happy memories. The movie deals with heavy themes; yet Anna and Kate’s friendship, the tight-knit family, Kate’s first boyfriend, the light music and warm memories all lighten the load and keep the tone for the most part upbeat and hopeful. In the novel however the Fitzgerald family is entirely disconnected. There aren’t many cuddly moments: Anna’s mom’s only concern is Kate’s survival; Anna’s father seeks refuge in his job; both parents gave up on Anna’s older brother; and Anna seems at times invisible to her parents. The family is broken.

Another obvious difference is the absence of Julia in the movie. Consequently we miss out on an entire storyline: the complicated relationship between Julia and Campbell. A parallel can be drawn between Anna/Kate’s relationship and Julia/Campbell’s relationship. Both Kate and Campbell feel their existence restricts the lives of the people they love and therefore make a decision to remove themselves from the lives of those loved ones.

Finally the most notable difference is the ending. The movie is clear from the start that Kate’s death is inevitable; Kate’s death does not come as a surprise. In the book, Anna is declared brain dead after a car accident; Kate receives Anna’s kidney and goes into remission. The ending of the book is convenient; since Anna is left brain dead, no difficult decisions have to be made regarding Anna’s and Kate’s future. I personally prefer the ending of the movie; it conveys a more realistic outcome.

All in all, the book is wonderfully written and the movie tells a heartbreaking story. It is a nicely done adaptation.  They do differ, but I was gripped by both. The movie depicts many of the major themes of the novel though obviously not in the same depth.

My Sister’s Keeper. Directed by Nick Cassavetes, performances by Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, Alec Baldwin, Jason Patric, Sofia Vassilieva, and Joan Cusack. New Line Cinema, 2009.

Book review | My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult



“It made me wonder, though, what would have happened if Kate had been healthy. […] Certainly I would not be part of this family. See, unlike the rest of the free world, I didn’t get here by accident. And if your parents have you for a reason, then that reason better exist. Because once it’s gone, so are you” (8).

My parents’ neighbours have a little free library that they roll outside every morning and roll back inside every evening. It is mostly full of Dutch books of every genre imaginable. However I did find an English copy of My Sister’s Keeper a few months ago. Since I was impressed by the movie, I was really happy I got my hands on this book.

Most of you will probably be familiar with the plot, but I will give a short synopsis anyway. Thirteen-year-old Anna has undergone countless of procedures to help save her older sister Kate. Kate has been battling leukemia since she was two. Anna is a designer baby conceived in order to be a bone marrow donor for Kate. Anna’s life and that of her entire family revolve around Kate’s health. When Kate needs one of Anna’s kidneys to survive, Anna sues her parents for the rights to her own body.

The plot is of course major tearjerker material. The novel depicts a family that was broken long before Anna made her claim. Yet, though it is a heart-wrenching story, I didn’t get as emotionally involved as I expected to be. This might be because of the story going back and forth in time and the numerous switches between characters’ voices. Still at times I had to swallow my tears. All characters are well-rounded and realistically portrayed. It is not difficult to imagine yourself in their shoes.

My Sister’s Keeper is written from multiple perspectives: Anna, Anna’s older brother, her mother, her father, her lawyer and her guardian who helps her during her court process. It is clear from the start that none of these voices can be trusted. Anna herself warns the reader: “you shouldn’t believe what you hear about me, least of all that which I tell you myself” (10). A major theme in this novel is therefore doubt. While reading, I had so many questions. What are the characters really thinking? Who is telling the truth? What secrets are the characters keeping? What is the right decision? As a reader you almost feel like you are the judge; you have to make up your own mind about what is right and what is wrong.

Jodi Picoult did an amazing job raising a big moral problem. How far are parents allowed to go in order to save a child? Is a child able to make a decision that will affect her entire life and will end the life of someone she loves? The ending of this novel surprised me. Although a verdict was reached and Anna came to a conclusion, the consequences never actually came to pass. It keeps you pondering about the what ifs. This is a fascinating book.

Picoult, Jodi. My Sister’s Keeper. New York, London, Toronto & Sydney: Washington Square Press, 2004.