The Mars Room – Rachel Kushner

51g3gPHzSRL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_I really wanted to like this book. The fact it was set in an american women’s prison sounded interesting and a bit different. Unfortunately, it fell flat for me and didn’t feel realistic enough.

Too many of the characters were sketchy and superficial, resulting in me not caring what happened to them and feeling as if they only existed to illustrate the issues Kushner wanted to include. Romy, the main character, has a seedy and unpleasant back story with few opportunities in life, but I didn’t empathise with her and actually agreed with the prison guards when she loses her son. That is, maybe she should have thought of him before she committed her crime.

The book did describe the unfairness of the judicial system and the problems and failings of the prison system but I have heard it all before. Maybe the fact that Kushner squeezed every single prison stereotype and potential occurrence into 340 pages, made it feel like a caricature and unrealistic. I have been in a UK women’s prison, thankfully only as work experience, and this book didn’t capture the atmosphere fully. Having said that, it may be different in the US.

Once or twice I did come across a little glimmer of something insightful e.g. when Gordon moves to the woods we get references to Thoreau, but it isn’t developed. Once again, we don’t get a psychological depth to the characters. I also liked the dialogue between the prisoners, it had a certain black humour, but (and I hate to say this) it reminded me a little of Orange is the New Black. 

Maybe I missed something here but it wasn’t for me and I wouldn’t recommend it.


2 thoughts on “The Mars Room – Rachel Kushner

  1. I am still waiting for this from our library, reluctant to buy it for my shelf. It was offered as a selection for The Book of The Month club, and I didn’t choose it then; I find it hard to believe I’ll feel differently than you described in your review.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A lot of people have given it good reviews. I would definitely wait for the library copy, just in case you do agree with me.


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