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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Room

Jonas Karlsson

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To purchase The Room

Title: The Room
Author: Jonas Karlsson
Genre: Novel
Written: 2009 (Eng. 2015)
Length: 186 pages
Original in: Swedish
Availability: The Room - US
The Room - UK
The Room - Canada
Das Zimmer - Deutschland
La stanza - Italia
La habitación - España
  • Swedish title: Rummet
  • Translated by Neil Smith

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Our Assessment:

B : matches voice and story well; reasonably well done

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Financial Times . 2/1/2015 Stephanie Boland
The Guardian . 15/1/2015 Ian Sansom
TLS . 27/2/2015 Jonathan Mcaloon

  From the Reviews:
  • "A brief but brilliant tale." - Stephanie Boland, Financial Times

  • "File under Comedy, Tragedy, Quirky, Profound, Sad, Slight, Silly, Urban Myth, and Unclassifiable. The Room is a simple book about almost nothing, with no reference to anything outside itself, with no grand subject and no great style and yet which seems utterly inevitable and is thoroughly enjoyable." - Ian Sansom, The Guardian

  • "(S)urprisingly zippy (.....) This is a very funny book about a magical room, but it is also a familiar, humane story about alienation and intolerance, set during a bleak Swedish winter." - Jonathan Mcaloon, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Room is narrated by Björn, and begins two weeks after he has started a new job, "at the Authority". What exactly the entity does is unclear, but the department Björn is in seems to deal mainly with reports from investigators, number-coded as to their importance: Björn's department works on "three- and four-figure documents", while: "considerably more senior administrators on the floor above" handle double-figure documents (while a lower-level department handles those in the five digits).
       Björn is very sure of himself, and his abilities, but he also has a very blinkered view of the world and everything around him. He sees things his way, and isn't very open to other points of view or opinions. It's safe to assume he was encouraged to leave his previous position because they had had enough of him -- as do, soon enough, his new colleagues.
       Björn quickly adopts a precise routine at work, but also finds a sort of sanctuary, an apparently unused but fully furnished room. The problem is that when he retreats there ... well, his colleagues don't quite see it that way. In fact, they don't see that room at all.
       Björn is insistent, and Björn likes to get his way; reality, too, turns out to be flexible, at least when it's in the interest of the Authority. As Björn's boss explains to his frustrated underlings:

     "Either there is a room there, or there isn't," Ann said.
     "It's not quite that simple," Karl said.
       Showing some initiative (and stealth), Björn engineers a change of fortune for himself, moving from a position of weakness -- his colleagues think he's delusional and want him fired, and he's given the most basic keep-busy tasks (which he dutifully performs without complaint) -- to one of strength, as he makes himself invaluable to the Authority.
       Presented entirely from Björn's point of view, The Room is a creepily amusing workplace novel. Whatever his talents -- and he apparently has some -- Björn is a horrible co-worker; his inability to see how he's seeing things wrong is often funny, but also rather unsettlingly so. Author Karlsson does a nice job in capturing the voice and mind of this odd duck; it's hard to sympathize with the character, but it's a reasonably interesting rabbit hole he draws readers down into.

- M.A.Orthofer, 4 March 2015

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The Room: Reviews: Other books by Jonas Karlsson under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Swedish author Jonas Karlsson was born in 1971.

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