The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne
(Picador, 2017)

The Upstairs Room

by Kate Murray-Browne

What if the house you lived in was destroying you?

Eleanor and Richard, with their two young daughters, have moved into their dream house in Hackney. Well, Richard’s dream, actually: big, Victorian, slightly gloomy.

Like almost everyone in London, they can’t really afford where they live. So they bring in a lodger to help pay the mortgage: 27-year old Zoe, who inhabits the self-contained flat in their cellar, but shares a front door with the family.

Eleanor takes against the house immediately. At first she’s merely uneasy. Soon, she is physically ill, and desperate to solve the mystery of the previous owners. Who is Emily, and why is her name written hundreds of times on the wall behind the sofa? What happened in the closed room on the top floor?

The Upstairs Room is a ghost story. But more importantly it’s a novel about the city: about the impossibility of sharing our lives and our spaces with one another, and all the different ways our lives could have turned out, and still might.


The Upstairs Room is the real thing. Frightening and clever and full of atmosphere”
- Susan Hill, bestselling author of The Woman in Black
An incredible read. Clever, chilling, I couldn't put it down”
- Joanna Cannon, author of The Trouble With Goats and Sheep
A gripping and impressive story of mounting terror. Spellbinding”
- John Carey
'A very impressive debut . . . a strikingly unusual, unsettling narrative that makes you want to read on to the end”
- Michael Frayn
Kate Murray-Browne is a wonderful writer and The Upstairs Room is a brilliantly evoked, sure-footed debut about loneliness, compromise, illness, housing, ambition, jealousy, failure and love -- not to mention a terrifying room”
- Robert Williams, author of Into the Trees
Ghosts? Lurking sense of evil? You may find them here, but the truly creepy element in this superbly unsettling first novel is only too real — property. Kate Murray-Browne has stuck her pen directly into the throbbing vein of the modern middle-class nightmare… Murray-Browne uses the clichés to confound the reader’s expectations, and it’s utterly compelling.”
- Kate Saunders, The Times
a compelling insight into the realities of contemporary women’s lives… Murray-Browne writes of both women with a raw but sympathetic honesty that strongly echoes Helen Simpson… intriguing and compelling. ”
- Sarah Crown, The Times Literary Supplement
This superbly written debut offers a Turn Of The Screw-ish take on the domestic horror genre and a sharply funny analysis of middle-class London types. Bravo!”
- Wendy Holden, The Daily Mail
A brilliantly observed and utterly unnerving ghost story of contemporary feminism and the housing crisis. Murray-Browne turns the screws so cleverly that the moment you long to break the novel's breathless grip is also the moment you recognize that its world is actually your own.”
- Anna Smaill, author of The Chimes
Kate Murray-Browne’s debut novel is a property horror story ... compulsively readable. Murray-Browne commands a lucid and reasonable prose, just the way to conduct you unprotestingly into the midst of this deranging subject matter. She is sharply observant but never overwrites ― and on the few occasions when she offers a plain simile it’s surprisingly funny as a result. Such cool writing looks easy. It’s not. Murray-Browne is an expert editor and it shows ... The Upstairs Room is engrossing. A fine holiday read. Far from London.”
- David Sexton, Evening Standard