The Upstairs room is what I'd like to call a cosy horror story, as it strikes just the right balance between authentic characters and a spooky setting.
Let me be clear, this is not a book for hardcore horror fans. This is one of those unsettling books where the horror takes place in what is intimated, and flourishes in your imagination. This is the precise reason I enjoyed the book so much. It was chilling, but not in a way that kept me up at night! This revives a quality that makes so many classic gothic and horror reads so powerful.
Married couple Eleanor and Richard find a beautiful old Victorian property in London Fields. It's a fixer-upper, and stretches their budget to the limit, but Richard is drawn to its potential. Soon, they move in with their two small children and take on a lodger in her late twenties, Zoe, to make ends meet.
As expected, all is not well in the house. The house makes Eleanor ill, their eldest child Rosie begins to throw increasingly violent tantrums and the name 'Emily' is scratched on the walls, over and over again. Zoe starts sleepwalking upstairs from her basement lodgings and having visions of an evil little girl.
Kate Murray Browne has created wonderfully conflicted characters. As each of them deals with the increasing horror in their own way, we see how the horror reflects their own personal paranoias, and also how their flaws contribute to the situation. The house, and whatever dwells in it, brings out their own darkness.
Skilled writing and an atmospheric setting make The Upstairs Room a beautiful, brooding book that is as much a reflection on modern relationships as it is a horror story. It will leave you wondering whether the horror is in the outside world, or within us. Buy it at your favourite independent bookseller or below: