Cover Image: Three Rooms

Three Rooms

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Member Reviews

I had a little trouble getting into this one. I was completely uninterested and unimpressed with Part 1. I struggled to get through it and almost gave up at this point. I gave it a chance and Part 2 caught my interest a little more and kept me reading. Part 3 was short, but wrapped up the book nicely and left me feeling sorry for the young woman, because this part is congruent with how a lot of millennials end up moving back with their parents.
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Set just pre-Brexit Britain , this millennial novel is sharp and well written but didn’t quite land for me. It opens with an epigraph from Virginia Woolf’s ‘Room of one’s own” which links to ‘Three Rooms’ of the title. The unnamed protagonist doesn’t have grand ambitions, she just wants to be able to afford her own place. A rented room in Oxford, a sofa in a friends flat, and back at her parents, are where she finds herself, as she struggles to find her place in the world, in the workplace, in society. It’s pessimistic, political and well observed, but think what I was missing was character. All opinions and reactions, I wanted something more. But I’ll definitely read this author again…
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Thanks to Netgalley and Mariner Books the ebook. Over the course of a year we follow a young woman from Oxford to London to, the unthinkable, back home to her parents. Played out against a soundtrack of Brexit, Boris Johnson and Grenfell Tower, she moves away from academia to temp editing a society magazine, knowing that she has it better than most, but is living on a couch the best that her generation can do? An updated A Room of One’s Own where politics and race never seem to fade into the background.
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This was an interesting and thoughtful read.  Over the course of one year, the main character is on the search for a room, or place to live, and we see her journey from a room she rents at the university where she works, a sofa within a run down apartment she rents, and finally her return to her childhood home when she can no longer afford to live in the city.  Through this journey, we learn more about the challenges the main character faces in supporting herself, as she questions whether a financially stable future is in the cards for her and other similarly situated members of her generation.   

The author poses many interesting questions about the modern economy and what security means.  Recommended!
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I enjoyed this book overall, the writing was great but the tone of the book I did not fully connect with. I appreciate this voice but not sure if it was my favourite. I enjoyed the millennial “trying to find her way in the world” plot but it was a bit all over the place for me. I would definitely try another one of Jo Hamya’s books in the future, though!
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I enjoyed the first few chapters of this book but then the story became, for me, trivial and meaningless, the characters unlikeable. The free-form style didn't help although I suppose it emphasized the mindset of many members of this generation. I do quite often enjoy novels written from the point of view this generation (Sally Rooney's books are wonderful) so  it was more than that...
Thankyou to Netgalley and the publisher for an advance review copy.
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I DNF"d this about 60 or so pages in. I really wanted to love it but the tone and writing style seems like it's trying so hard that it ends up feeling very pretentious. Which is sad because I really enjoy the premise. Ended up giving me bad Ali Smith vibes from the attempt at the social commentary in Britain after the Brexit vote. Who knows I might come back to this one and give it another chance but right now it's really not what I wanted to be reading.
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Somewhere between 3 - 3.5 rounded down

Jo Hamya's debut is a slim and slippery novel, hard to describe and define. We meet the unnamed when she is teaching at Oxford University and living in a small room in a shared house, later following her to an unstable copy editing position at a glossy magazine in London where she sleeps on another young woman's sofa. Finally she takes in an exhibition at the Tate before moving back in with her parents. These make up the 'three rooms' of the novel, which seems to have taken some inspiration from Woolf's A Room of One's Own. 

This is another book which falls into the Brexit era of British fiction, featuring a protagonist struggling with many issues which face her fellow millennials: an unstable job and property market and a 'useless' degree amid a tumultuous economy and political climate. I found the unnamed protagonist and her internal thoughts to be wholly relatable and realistic, but have to admit to finding the middle section (on the second room) a bit frustrating. That said, I'd be interested to see what Hamya writes next and will likely pick up her next novel.
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Three Rooms is a thoughtful and observant book. It doesn't hesitate to address the state of the world from a general perspective while also from that of a young person who is challenged to fit into it. I found the writing to be insular and reflective, but overall it didn't really click with me in the way that the synopsis had me hoping it would.
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A debut in which we follow a young woman having moved to Oxford, into a rented room, with a new position as a research assistant, and just trying to find her place in the world. This is a first person narrative, with a protagonist who comes across as a bit awkward and even self-indulgent, and I just found myself struggling to connect with her. I typically enjoy a literary fiction piece with a millennial character, yet this one just missed the mark for me. I'm not drawn to novels that deal with heavy political discussions, and this one had some I just couldn't focus on, leaving me feeling a bit disoriented. 

I can definitely see how someone else may find this to be their cup of tea, and maybe they will be able to connect with the character and her story more than I was able to. 

*Thank you to Mariner Books for providing me with this ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I truly appreciate it.*
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This was a DNF for me, as I got about a quarter in and found it pretty much unbearable. This book feels very self-indulgent and hoity toity—the narrator is unnamed, and it very much feels like stream-of-consciousness, which I have never gelled well with. There were no quotation marks, and the book jumps all over the place. From what I’ve read, it’s pretty plotless—the little plot there is isn’t interesting or important to the book, which leads me to believe the prose itself is supposed to be the hook. I’m not huge into plotless works, so this one was just not for me. I honestly think I could have enjoyed this as a series of short stories, but as a novel, it wasn’t enjoyable.
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This was interesting. The author (Hamya) took a spin at Virginia Wolff's and her essay titled "A Room of One's Own." Funnily enough I thought this would resonate with me. I grew up in a packed house with no privacy and had to share a room until I was a pre-teen. And even then, my brothers would kick my door in since my room led upstairs to their bedrooms in the so called attic (it really wasn't an attic. They had huge rooms upstairs (4 of them) our house was a duplex that my parents tore the walls down in between) so I never really had privacy. And then I had a roommate in graduate school and only really had a place of my own when I moved to the DC area. Now I very much need a room or rooms of my own that include lots of books and a garden. That said, this book dragged a lot. The narrator was nameless (which irked me) and the book just follows the narrator through 3 separate rooms during the course of her life from 2018 through present day times which is how we get "Three Rooms" of the title.  

Pros: I honestly liked the plot. It made me rethink all of the rooms that I grew up in and lived in that shaped me. I liked following the narrator through her various jobs and the rooms she had to deal with. And you can see how hopeful she was in the beginning and beaten down by the end. You also get a lot of commentary of Brexit in this one as well. We also get into race and class as well. 

Cons: The book just drags here and there and it took a while to hold my interest. I was left confused by some of the passages and wondered what emotion was I supposed to be left with as I finished reading. I think that this was really just a semi-autobiography of Hamya's experience so I don't know why she didn't just write this as a non-fiction piece.
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I don't think this was the right choice for me. It feels plotless in not a good way. I dnf'd at around 10% Usually, I like this type of novel but I just think I read too many novels that are very similar to this
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Thank you to NetGalley and Mariner Books for an advanced electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

This book follows a young woman renting a room in Oxford on her journey to have a place of her own, both to live physically and in the world metaphorically.

Admittedly, I stopped reading about 18% through. I found that I was struggling to care about the main character, as she seemed so dull. Her story didn't interest me. I think this is okay as a concept but it would help if the main character had a clear purpose that you could recognize in their words and actions. Instead, it's kinda like... why should I care about this character?
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I found the writing style really interesting. At times, though, it was quite repetitive. I think it was like that on purpose, to show how life can be repetitive, but I just felt that it slowed the book down a bit. I did enjoy the second half better and read it a lot quicker than the first half. As a side note- the main character is nameless and it personally took me a while to get used to that but that might just be because I've never read a book with a nameless main character before.
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I received a copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley.

This novel was not for me. I couldn't get past the 'literary' style (e.g. 'I wanted to work with the dichotomy of things: the constant present tense of the house, and the vision I had of myself, unpacked, future perfect'. The narrator concludes that living like that is exhausting - I find reading writing like that exhausting.) Also, the street in Oxford is St Giles, not Giles Street.
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DNF around 20%. I thought the cover, title, and description were cool and that is what drew me in. However, the writing style was just not for me.
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1.5 stars, rounded down. The blurb seemed like it might be an interesting addition to other literary fiction pieces I’ve recently read focusing on millennial issues and ennui. In reality, this is a mix of autofiction (which I tend to dislike), highbrow writing, and tons of UK politics (of which I am unfamiliar) - all making this pretty insufferable to get through. There were a few really beautiful lines sprinkled in the ramblings of class and social media (I’ll drop one or two below), yet even those are not enough to bring this up to 2-stars as I really didn't enjoy my time with this. Hard pass! But cool cover. 

“… the privilege of a place can depend on the absence of the wrong body as much s the presence of the right one.” 

“What else did anyone with comfortable enough means ever really do, except look at the news and accept the circumstances of the world so long as they did not interfere with the general course of what it took to live a life?”

“The push alerts came, blooming kiss upon kiss, in oblong waves not omy home screen. The way apps moved had a lightness, an aerodynamics to them: they hovered, hung, bobbed in and out of view.”

“Before calling my mother, I was an unhappy, failing adult. After calling my mother, I was an unhappy, failing child.”

I voluntarily obtained a digital version of this book free from Netgalley and Mariner Books in exchange for an honest review.
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The unnamed narrator of this slim novel set in 2018 just wants a room of her own.  I know.  She's a university grad who hasn't been able to find long term appropriate employment (not sure what that would be for her) or a place to live.  Then there's Brexit.  While I suspect others might enjoy it, I found it typical of the recent trend of disaffected nameless characters in novels which don't have a real plot line.  Thanks to netgalley for the ARC.  A pass from me.
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When starting Jo Hamya’s Three Rooms, I thought I would love it.  In my twenties, I was in position similar to the unnamed narrator’s, but at a high-ranking American university.  The narrator’s lack of a name made her somewhat of an Everyman--or, in this case, an Every-twenty-something woman.  However, much as I failed to identify with Holden Caulfield’s teenage angst in Catcher in the Rye when I read Salinger’s novel as a teenager, I failed not only to identify with Hamya’s narrator, but also to become very interested in her or in any of the lesser characters in the book. Perhaps that is the point; perhaps the social comment is more important than the characters. 

Clearly, some reviewers enjoyed Three Rooms, and Hamya can write well although her writing style is not for me. Ultimately, although I like many types of novels, I suspect I am too old for this one although the author’s satiric humor sometimes amused me.  For example, although the narrator hopes to find a real (non-student) job someday and be able to afford her own flat/apartment, the post-doctoral student across the hall cannot understand her desire to leave academia in favor of a “real world” job.  “The academic market will be oversaturated for a while,” he rationalizes, “But if they keep driving tuition prices up, in a generation or two, we might stand a chance.  We’ll just have no one to teach.” His optimism about being hired for a faculty position in a generation or two speaks volumes about the hopelessness of these students’ situation.  I responded similarly to the narrator’s oft-repeated two-word sentence “I worked.”  Readers do not learn about her work although her post-doctoral position is her reason for being at Oxford, at least on the surface.  Instead of descriptive details, the sentence is followed by seemingly random happenings, and I started to understand she is at Oxford simply because she has nowhere else to go—no “real world” job opportunities.

When the narrator attends her first Oxford party, she encounters a young woman named Ghislane whose main interest was getting the narrator connected with her on Instagram.  Indeed, Ghislane’s function in the novel seems to be to represent a shallow 21st-century type whose reason to exist involves imposing herself on a series of places in the photos of her Instagram feed, not caring about anything else.   Although the infamous Ghislaine Maxwell attended Oxford, the contemporary setting indicates that the slight variation on the given name could be no more than a bit of fun.   

Again, I see Hamya painting a satiric portrait of contemporary life as her narrator moves from academia to copyediting and then back home with her parents.  As a former Oxford student of contemporary literature and culture and a former copy editor, Hamya appears to have drawn, to some degree, upon her own experiences.  I admire her ability to turn life into fiction.

Ultimately, however, nameless characters, lack of quotation marks for dialogue, and the repeated harping on various forms of social media and on Brexit bother me.  As a retired English professor, I am baffled by any writer’s choice to omit quotation marks; Hamya is not the only contemporary novelist to choose to do so.  I may be old-fashioned, but I see no reason to abandon this convention.  As an American, I am certainly aware of Brexit but apparently not informed enough to understand fully all the nuances and ramifications in the narrator’s mind although my Google search helped somewhat.

Three Rooms surely has its proper audience; unfortunately, I am not a member.  I suspect Three Rooms is much cleverer than I can appreciate, and I hope it finds its way into the right hands. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the advance reader copy.
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