One of the most overrated books I’ve ever read. Yes, it deals with very intense issues, but it offers no insight about those issues or the psychology of the people involved in them.
I won’t bother rehashing the plot; I figure everyone has the basic idea by now from other reviews. I am in agreement with those who find Jack, the five-year old narrator, to be annoying and frequently unbelievable. In the hands of a better writer, telling the story from Jack’s perspective would lead to revelations about a child’s perceptions of horrific things. But instead of Jack’s perceptions, we just get Jack’s descriptions; frequently sprinkled with obnoxious baby talk. For example: Jack, hidden in the wardrobe, describes the repeated rape of his mother by her captor as ‘creaking the bed’. There is no indication of any lasting psychological effect this is having on Jack, which is because there isn’t any! After they escape, we find out that, thanks to his mother’s super creative shielding of her son, he is a normal, well-adjusted lovable kid; he just sun burns easily from his life spent indoors. Bullshit.
We also get few indications of the inner life of his mother. She occasionally goes catatonic in the room. She tries to commit suicide on the outside. These aren’t psychological insights; these are just the actions of someone who is messed up.
I can’t help feeling this book is a kind of ‘mommy porn’. Someone trying to imagine a world where it’s just her and her little boy and she will protect him from everything and they will be each other’s world. As mentioned in many other reviews, there are endless references to Jack’s breast-feeding and his repeated proclamations about which breast is ‘creamier’, also in obnoxious baby talk. This does nothing to dispel the creepy mommy porn vibe of the book.