Book Review

The Upstairs Room
By: Kate Murray-Browne

Genre: Ghost Story/Horror

Reading time:

Pages: 369

Summary: Eleanor and Richard have stretched themselves to the limit to buy the perfect home – a tall Victorian townhouse with enough room for their growing family. But the cracks are already starting to show. Eleanor is unnerved by the eerie atmosphere in the house and is convinced it is making her ill. Their two young daughters are restless and unsettled; three-year-old Rosie misbehaves and points to an imaginary girl.

Richard, still positive they’ve found the house of their dreams, is more preoccupied with Zoe: their alluring, mercurial twenty-seven-year-old lodger. As Eleanor’s symptoms intensify, she becomes determined to unravel the mystery of the family who last lived in the house. Who were the Ashworths? Why did they leave in such a hurry? And why is the name Emily Written hundreds of times on the walls of the upstairs room…?

Beautifully written and impossible to put down, The Upstairs Room is a contemporary ghost story and a novel about memory, loneliness, desire, and love – the things that haunt us all.  [as written on the back of the novel]


Rant: I REALLY tried to like this book. I really did. But I just could not. It was heartbreaking. I bought this book in Paris at the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore so I will keep it forever but it was really disappointing. The characters were shallow, the plot ended up being a half-finished seance. The author tried to create engaging characters but their stories were long, drawn out and just plain boring.

At one point in the story I thought perhaps it was going to be entirely in Eleanor’s head and she used the house as a scapegoat, because everything that happened could be easily dismissed by real-life issues, things moving and writing on walls could easily be attributed to the children, the headaches could be an actual illness and that could have been a great psychological thriller. In the end, however, it was neither that or a ghost story. The ending was pointless, nothing ever happened with the ghost.

The point of ghost stories is to have the ghost be a large part of the novel. We weren’t introduced to the ghost until about 2/3 of the way through the book. Nothing was ever resolved, the family moved out even after Richard was dead set against it in the beginning. His daughter got burned by some hot coffee and he was half packed up before they were home from the hospital. How is getting burnt by some coffee supernatural? That was the thing that sent him up the wall when his wife had been throwing up blood for months and she said it was the house making her sick?

The one thing I did like was the hopelessness of the situation. But I am still unsure if it was intended or just bad writing. Nothing seemed wrong throughout the book, just slightly off the whole time, which was irritating for the reader and the characters. Eleanor and Richard honestly should not have gotten married they are unhappy but they will always remain together, Zoe’s life is a wreck and everyone is questioning how they got there. It was sad, I can’t say heartbreaking because I didn’t feel strongly about the characters.

Overall, this book was sub-par at best. Between the nonexistent plot and the flat characters, the whole novel was pointless. I do not recommend this book, save your money. There are many other books to actually enjoy in the world. 1 out of 5 stars. Not great, unfortunately.

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