Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne

Book Review

The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne - Reading, Writing, Booking

"It was there from the beginning, the day they first saw the house. Eleanor noticed the smell first."

The Upstairs Room will be published on 27th July. It is published by Picador and written by Kate Murray-Browne.

I included The Upstairs Room in my June Favourite Books post and now here's my full review. As I said before, this book is like a subtle version of a classic haunted house story. It unfolds slowly but that's part of its attraction, it's an in depth look at people and the way a building can affect them.

Eleanor, Richard and their two young daughters recently stretched themselves to the limit to buy their dream home, a four-bedroom Victorian townhouse in East London. But the cracks are already starting to show. Eleanor is unnerved by the eerie atmosphere in the house and becomes convinced it is making her ill. Whilst Richard remains preoccupied with Zoe, their mercurial twenty-seven-year-old lodger, Eleanor becomes determined to unravel the mystery of the house’s previous owners – including Emily, whose name is written hundreds of times on the walls of the upstairs room.

The blurb makes The Upstairs Room come across as typical haunted house fodder; happy young couple, quirky old house, mysterious presence, haunted upstairs room etc, but actually the book takes all the good points of a ghost story, keeps them, yet injects a lot more human story and mystery. It's about the house and what happened there  but also about the affect on the characters and how they react, not with shrieking and running away from zombies and stuff, but looking at their lives and relationships.

The story is actually quite slow moving but I liked this as it's not all about thrills and scares.

The characters in The Upstairs Room are very well developed, I actually highlighted a few lines that stood out to me as they relate to things I have felt myself, especially from Zoe and how other people just seem to know secrets about being adults.

"Sometimes it felt like everyone knew about a secret store of money that she couldn't access."

Murray-Browne has a very realistic way of writing but also one that somehow captures the atmosphere of places and moments. especially in her descriptions of the house which can be oppressive, you can totally imagine it.

If you're reading The Upstairs Room more for the horror than a look at family dynamics, then don't worry, throughout there is a creepiness which gradually builds and it's actually very scary how the people in the house slowly disintegrate. I'm not sure it could be classified fully as a horror novel but it definitely has strong spooky elements.

There were just a couple of issues for me; one was that, while the reader really connects with the main characters of Eleanor and Zoe, I would have liked to hear a little from Eleanor's children, especially as one of the daughters in particular is very disturbed by the house.
I also felt the ending was a little disappointing, it fizzled a little bit.

However, I still thoroughly enjoyed The Upstairs Room and it hooked me in with slow deliberateness instead of the constant shock value that so many thrillers use nowadays.

My Rating: 4/5

I received a copy of The Upstairs Room via NetGalley in return for an honest review. My thanks to the author and publisher.

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