The Upstairs Room: review

Upstairs Room 250I really liked the premise of this book. How many times have you moved into a new home (a lot, in my case) and subsequently wondered about the previous occupants? If these walls could talk…

I expected – based on the synopsis of this book, the publisher’s designation of it as a ‘thrilling, atmospheric novel’, some gushing pre-publication blurbs and my initial reading – that this would be a dark tale with either a supernatural undertone or some ghoulish, ice-down-the-back twists. But for me, The Upstairs Room didn’t quite deliver.

The writing style is solid, and were this simply pitched as a general fiction novel about adults bumbling through relationships, I expect I’d have been less disappointed as I read (although even then, I didn’t like any of the characters, so I couldn’t root for them, and I was distinctly uncomfortable with the out-of-nowhere use of the C-word with relation to Zoe’s love life). But I wasn’t thrilled, or surprised, or gripped as I wanted to be.

Occasionally, when the writer moved away from exploring Eleanor and Richard and Zoe’s particular life issues (Zoe’s love life in particular) and focused on the upstairs room and the mysterious Emily, my interest was piqued. I was left always left wanting more, though: more mystery, more darkness, more exploration of that backstory, more shocking revelations. Ultimately, the denouement and ending left me feeling somewhat flat – and having read this book straight after Jane Corry’s Blood Sisters, the contrast in how I felt upon finishing was striking.

Perhaps I missed something in my reading that rendered the book more chilling; I did try, as I read, to talk myself into that mood. But I think, ultimately, a ‘thrilling, atmospheric novel’ has to grab you, and unfortunately this one just didn’t quite pull me in.

* My rating: Three stars *

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book details

Author: Kate Murray-Browne

Genre: See review


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.

Publisher: Picador

Publication date: 27 July 2017

Length: 320 pages

Available from: Amazon