Do you control your house: or does IT control you?
This is Katie Murray-Browne’s debut novel, it is a peculiar subject matter but it is intriguing and was an enjoyable read.
A typical family, Eleanor, Richard and their 2 young children buy a grand old Victorian house to renovate and make their own, BUT Eleanor has negative vibes the very moment she steps in the house and she feels unsettled…….. ‘ that smell, not unpleasant but just lingering’.
Should you buy a house that MAKES you feel uncomfortable?’
To help financially, they find a lodger to live in the basement; Zoe is a temp working at the same lawyer company as Richard. At first live is awkward and Zoe tries to avoid the family, but as time goes on Richard is distracted by Zoe’s presence in the basement.
Eleanor in the other hand starts to work on the house, it seems to resist her at every opportunity and she starts to feel unwell. Belongings move and peculiar stones reappear by the doorstep. The top room is filled with strange scribbling’s and she notices evidence of a young troubled child – did she live there previously, is the house haunted? Can a house really make someone feel that uneasy?
I’m not too sure what relevance Zoe really makes to this story? Her character seems to just run parallel to Eleanor and Richard throughout the book. Zoe’s relationship with Richard could have been developed exponentially and therefore increased the complexity and tension of the situation. I wanted more of the interactions, plot, twists and intrigue between the house residents as I feel this would have enhanced the reading experience – however I am sure this book will find its intended audience.
Murray-Browne’s writing style is easy to read and I found myself having trouble putting it down in places; however I felt the characters were slightly superficial and needed more depth, especially the protagonists and Zoe.
I liked the concept and at times it was spine tinglingly good, but I felt it was inconsistent and I was left a little despondent that it didn’t quite deliver. The ending was particularly understated and frustrating!
I do feel though, that this would be a good read for teenagers who want to ‘dip their toes’ into the supernatural genre so-to-speak without it being too scary.
The Upstairs Room is published by Pan Macmillan and is available to purchase here.
Kate Murray-Browne was born and lives in London. She worked in publishing for ten years, previously at Faber & Faber, before becoming a freelance editor. She is also a visual artist and has exhibited work in a number of different galleries. The Upstairs Room is her first novel.
Reviewed by Amanda Brightman
The SHALLOW CREEK Short Story Competition
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