Monday, November 10, 2014

Rooms - Lauren Oliver

This book came to me as a review copy, I said yes to it because the blurb reminded me of both Shirley Jackson's 'The Haunting of Hill House' and Rumer Godden's 'A Fugue in Time'. Two brilliant books by two of my favourite authors; with expectations like that 'Rooms' was always going to have a lot to live up to. In the end it didn't really measure up to the competition - though honestly I don't suppose many books could.

It's billed as a chilling ghost story - which it is, there are bits which really did give me the creeps. Richard Walker is dying, and as well as the nurses who are payed to watch over him there's also Alice and Sandra - or what's left of them. Both Alice and Sandra died in the house, neither have ever moved on, instead they've become a part of the place - the house is their body through which they feel every vibration and they in turn are it's judgemental consciousness observing the living.

When Richard finally dies his family - Caroline, the alcoholic ex wife, Minna a grown up daughter with a compulsion to sleep with every man who crosses her path, and Trenton, the son who only just survived a terrible car accident all descend on the house. None of them are very happy in each other's company, all have things to hide, and all three of them are damaged. So damaged that it's hard to empathise with any of them, and for me that's one of the weaknesses of the book - I didn't like anybody enough to care what happened or why they were the way they were.

Living and dead alike have things they need to accept before they can move on, and slowly the different stories unwind with Trenton, who can sometimes hear and occasionally see the ghosts, acting as a bridge between them before eventually a cathartic crisis point is reached.   The idea of the ghosts as watchers condemned to an eternity of bickering with each other as they share the body of the house is excellent. They have no choice but to observe the living and that's genuinely unsettling, especially when the living have as much to hide as this lot. However the other thing that didn't work for me about this book is that there's just to much going on, to many coincidences, and in the end to much drama and tragedy; I think less would have been more effective. Oliver is already a successful YA author, but this is her first book for adults which I guess is why she's gone out of her way to make it as adult as possible in some of it's details. She's definitely a writer to look out for, but in the end this particular book wasn't really for me

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