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The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne - Review

Sunday, July 28, 2019

I asked for recommendations on Twitter recently for more contemporary gothic stories, and someone said they felt this fitted into the genre. I requested it in the library and picked it up last week. I kept going because the story was a compulsive read, but the book as a whole sort of annoyed me. Basically I think that posh people need better problems.

Eleanor and Richard buy a house at the beginning of the book. They don't meet the house's vendors, the Ashworths, but when they move in to the four storey house, they discover that in one of the upstairs rooms the Ashworth daughter Emily has written her name all over the walls. The door to the room doesn't open easily and Eleanor gets a bad feeling about the room. She has her misgivings about the house entirely, but Richard is so excited by the project that she feels drawn along.

The family haven't been in the house very long when Eleanor starts suffering nausea and sickness. When she's away from the house she's fine, but inside she gets oppressive headaches and struggles to look after their little girls, Rosie and Isobel. Rosie starts behaving badly - biting Eleanor and tantrumming - but while everyone tells her that it's typical behaviour for a three year old, Eleanor is convinced that the house is to blame.

Meanwhile the family has to have a lodger living in the basement to help them pay the bills. Zoe is a receptionist at Richard's office, although she leaves the job to work in an art shop. She's just split up with someone and is quite bored and trying to find herself. She starts a relationship with an artist called Adam. She gets night terrors and sleep paralysis in which she sees a little girl.

Things start moving around the house, which is very creepy, but it's also a fact that Zoe sneaks into the upstairs room when she shouldn't, and Richard sneaks downstairs into her rooms to spy on her when he shouldn't. Like, half of their problems would've been sorted if they hadn't all been snooping on each other.

We also see how Eleanor and Richard got together, while at university in Cambridge, and how they ended up married with children, a situation which neither of them seems to actively like. Richard doesn't believe that the house is making Eleanor ill, and the two of them pull apart. We see how Zoe ended up with her ex Rob and how they ended up breaking up, which I felt was a parallel to Eleanor and Richard's story.

None of them was particularly likeable as characters. I think I liked Zoe best. I think the ending happened really quickly and didn't resolve everything I'd have liked it to. I'm giving this three out of five.

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