Saturday, 15 July 2017

Book Review - The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne

The Upstairs Room


Kate Murray-Browne

 Pre-Order here for release on 27th July 2017

Genre: Horror
Contemporary Horror
Adult Fiction

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.

Thank you to Pan Macmillan and Netgalley for this ARC, which I have reviewed voluntarily and honestly.

Now I don't mind admitting I am a total wimp when it comes to horror, so I was in two minds whether or not to read this book. I did obviously, but made sure I read it in the daytime or with the lights on. It doesn't help that my bedroom is the 'Upstairs Room' in my cottage either and so far - and believe me I have checked - there are no strange drawings on my walls.

Eleanor and Richard have bought a large house that needs a lot of work doing to it. They have two young children Rosie and Isobel. They rent their basement - a lounge, bedroom and shower room - to Zoe, a local young woman who works in a nearby art store.
Despite the estate agents claims the house looks like it hasn't been lived in for a long while and whoever did live there looks like they left in a hurry. The upstairs room has walls covered in strange drawings, shapes and over and over again the name Emily is written everywhere. There are also children's belongings in the room and a locked suitcase. The door has scratches all over it on the inside as if somebody has been trying to get out whilst on the outside of the door is a large bolt. Whoever tries to enter the room is always met with a strange feeling of pressure from the other side of the door, as if somebody or something is pressing against the door to prevent entry. Eleanor also finds with regularity pebbles ranging in size lined up neatly in the room and on the pavement outside the house. The pebbles make their way nearer and nearer to the house until eventually they are lined up on the doorstep. Richard insists it is just children messing about and nothing to worry about. Eleanor is not convinced and by now she has begun to feel very unwell. She has crippling headaches and vomits constantly. Her symptoms however improve dramatically the longer she is out of the house. Her toddler daughter - Rosie - is also showing signs of being affected by some unknown force. 
Rosie's temper tantrums have reached alarming levels and she has begun to bite Eleanor with a vicious force. Rosie prefers to be at nursery, going into meltdown at weekends when she has to stay at home. Then the night terrors begin and Rosie starts to talk about 'Girl', who is always to blame for any wrongdoing, mess or tantrum.

This book has the makings of an excellent, classic, horror novel. Not a psychological thriller, but a proper spine chilling, read with the lights on horror. However it seemed to lose it's way somewhat. A lot of time was spent going over Eleanor and Richard's past, how they met and so forth. None of this seemed relevant in my opinion, but the author could have been using the negative feelings and underlying tension to explain why the house felt haunted. After all it is claimed by those in the know that buildings pick up on the residents and that spirits can be unsettled by the forces around them.
Then there is their lodger Zoe. Again a lot of time is spent looking into her life, her ex-boyfriend, her Mother, her friends and her new relationship with a guy she has met through work called Adam. Again I wasn't sure why this and indeed the character of Zoe was included. Richard begins to have a fixation with Zoe, visiting her living quarters etc, but beyond that nothing appears to happen.
Zoe has had strange things begin to happen to her since moving into the basement. She wakes up feeling paralysed, unable to move as if there is a force sitting on her chest, she sleepwalks and is found by Eleanor in the upstairs room.

Eleanor tries to glean as much information as she can from the neighbours about the house and the previous owners. The only thing they all tell her is that the mother - Mrs Ashworth - always looks harassed, ill and scared and her daughter Emily was not 'all there'. 

When I got to the end of the book I was none the wiser who the 'Girl' or this spirit was, if there actually was a spirit or if the house was indeed haunted. Did Emily - the previous owner's daughter - have anything to do with it? Did her illness stem from the house or was she ok before they lived there.
I felt slightly cheated if I'm honest.

However in terms of horror writing Murray-Browne excels. I was absolutely petrified reading the descriptions of the strange goings on and I did feel the hairs go up on the back of my neck a few times.
I may devote some time to re-reading this book again and I would be interested to read reviews from other readers to see if their point of view helps me understand the story further. I wonder if the background stories of Eleanor, Richard and Zoe are more pivotal to the story than I gave them credit for.

I am giving this book 4* as the horror writing is fantastic and I really think it deserves another read by me!

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