Whilst Kate Murray-Browne’s ‘The Upstairs Room’ is still on my TBR pile (I will get to it, honest), I am still excited to share with you, an extract from the book. Big thanks to Don Shanahan for inviting me on the tour!
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.
Released on the 27th July and available to pre-order here!
They were silent in the car. Eleanor was anticipating the argument they were going to have. She felt helpless, defeated before they’d even begun. The four bedrooms, the outside space. The area, the schools. Transport links. It didn’t feel right. What does that even mean? There’s a housing crisis. Prices are rising every month, every week: they’re rising right now. I just didn’t feel comfortable there. We’re running out of time. The smell. The upstairs room! You have to look at the potential. We could make a fortune on that place. Acquisitive, greedy. Irrational. She felt empty. They were on the move now, however much she wished they weren’t. The house they’d moved to after they got engaged, where they’d brought their children home from hospital, was no longer theirs. The moment they’d given notice, it had lurched into the unfamiliar. Its flaws and eccentricities became unbearable when there was no point fixing or tolerating them. She had never felt less welcome than in the house they had seen that afternoon, but she was unwelcome in her own home now. And she knew their resources were slowly depleting – time, energy, childcare, love.
It was only when they were getting ready for bed that it surfaced, vivid and sharp: an image of the kitchen sink, surrounded by perfectly clear, sterile metal. She tried to picture the bathroom and was certain it was the same: she could see unbroken plains of enamel, unpunctuated by signs of life.
‘Think about it, Richard, there was nothing: no washing-up liquid, no toothbrushes, no soap. It was empty.’
Richard threw his shirt on the chair in their bedroom. ‘They were probably just tidying up before the viewing. Shoved it all in a cupboard.’
‘I don’t think they live there any more.’
‘He said they did, didn’t he? Michael, I mean.’ Richard got into bed. ‘If anything, it was too lived-in.’
As she brushed her teeth, Eleanor thought of those blank surface and; the deep, dark paint colours. The feeling of compression on the top floor; the writing on the wall. There was something not quite right, awry. She just didn’t know how to articulate it. By the time she came back in the bedroom, Richard had already turned out the light.