Review - the Upstairs Room - Kate Murray-Browne
A macabre, chilling and unsettling debut novel, The Upstairs Room is a contemporary take on the classic "young couple move into a new home that turns out to have something sinister lurking upstairs".
Eleanor and husband Richard have found their new family home for themselves and their 2 young daughters. They know it will be a struggle financially to buy in a desirable area of London so they settle for an older property that "needs a bit doing" well frankly it needs quite a lot of renovation and redecoration but they're young and enthusiastic and it can be a project for them to enjoy together.
Bit it becomes more of a money pit than they imagined, and in order to keep their heads above water they rather reluctantly sub-let the basement to a young woman lodger and into the periphery of their lives comes Zoe. However living in this gloomy and outdated home soon makes Eleanor in particular begin to feel distinctly uneasy, in fact she begins to be frequently ill and fears its the house affecting her health.
Plans to renovate are soon shelved and even redecorating the dark and outdated decor is beyond their means and the rooms remain gloomy and the unnerving scribble which adorns in particular an unused attic bedroom with the name Emily scrawled repeatedly together with disquieting drawings has to remain. Eleanor begins to find this writing concealed elsewhere in the house too.
Whilst Eleanors life crumbles and Richard grows ever more distant, obsessed with planning and pointlessly plotting the elaborate restoration project which seems doomed to never happen. Their lodger Zoe's life seems to be taking a turn for the better, she gets a new job, OK it's not very stimulating and her lodgings aren't quite the chic city apartment she dreamed of but when a new man enters her life and romance seems likely, she feels quite settled ... or does she? Is the house somehow influencing everyone who lives there?
It certainly seems to be having an adverse effect, even on the little girls, whose increasingly difficult behaviour becomes almost the final straw for struggling Mum Eleanor.
All the way through the book is a creeping sense of unease and terror and the puzzle of whether it is in fact the house to blame, or the people within it?
Its creepy and scary and gives you that lump in your throat which gulping hard just can't quite shift.
I did consider the ending a little rushed and not quite as explosive as I hoped but the whole book is filled with creeping menace and subtle insinuations and its a real page turner that's sure to entertain and really makes you think how you'd react in some of the situations. The subtly flawed characters and the macabre location combine to create an engaging work of psychological horror.
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.