Published by Hodder & Stoughton on September 25, 2014
Genres: Fiction, Paranormal
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Compulsive and powerful ghost story narrated by two spirits who inhabit the walls of an old house. It's a tale of family, ghosts, secrets, and mystery, in which the lives of the living and the dead intersect in shocking, surprising, and moving ways.
Wealthy Richard Walker has just died, leaving behind his country house full of rooms packed with the detritus of a lifetime. His estranged family-bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled teenage son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna-have arrived for their inheritance.
But the Walkers are not alone. Prim Alice and the cynical Sandra, long dead former residents bound to the house, linger within its claustrophobic walls. Jostling for space, memory, and supremacy, they observe the family, trading barbs and reminiscences about their past lives. Though their voices cannot be heard, Alice and Sandra speak through the house itself-in the hiss of the radiator, a creak in the stairs, the dimming of a light bulb.
The living and dead are each haunted by painful truths that will soon surface with explosive force. When a new ghost appears, and Trenton begins to communicate with her, the spirit and human worlds collide-with cataclysmic results.
Rooms is an unexpected ghost story filled with secrets and mysteries in an old haunted house, and horrible, horrible people. As Lauren Oliver’s debut into adult fiction, it is a solid and unusual read but I’m just not sure if I enjoyed it.
The story is narrated by two ghosts and a family. You’ve got Alice and Sandra, the two ghosts who inhabit the house and only remember bits and pieces of their deaths. The terrible Richard Walker’s family, containing an alcoholic, a nymphomaniac, a child and a suicidal teenager. Each and every one of these characters were fundamentally flawed, totally awful beings who were difficult to connect to.
It was unfair that people could pretend to be one thing when they were really something else. That they would get you on their side and then do nothing but fail, and fail, and fail again. People should come with warnings, like cigarette packs: involvement would kill you over time.
Rooms offers an experience so haunting and jarring, with these terrible, flawed people who do horrible things and have even worse secrets that you really just want to read on to uncover them. What a strange feeling, to be reading a book that gave me so much discomfort but still managed to engage my curiosity.
Slowly over the course of the book, secrets from almost every member of the family, and the ghosts themselves, are unveiled. The book does start off slow, as I struggled to remember character names and their relationships, as the ghosts recall tidbits of their own lives while observing the living. With a prevailing sense of mystery, it builds up to a crescendo of reveals, some of them predictable, and others which you won’t see coming.
Don’t think I felt sorry for myself. The way I figure it, life’s the sum total of all our small mistakes, little tragedies, bad choices. Addition on top of addition. They pile up and pile up until the cost of keeping up appearances is too high and the weight is too much.
The strange feeling that this book gave me upon completion, was an unsettling feeling. It tells a story of horrible people, but do they go through character development to make them likable? Do they eventually see the error of their ways and grow closer as a family? Unfortunately, that’s not the hero story that Lauren Oliver wanted to tell. I think she intended to leave us with that strange, haunting depressing feeling of fundamental human flaws – and it’s not sugar coated in the least.
Rooms is a depressing, haunting and mysterious read that isn’t just a ghost story. Instead, it’s a mystery exploring flawed humans and ghosts with a plethora of horrible secrets. While some secrets may be predictable in nature, and it lacks character development, it’s certainly a strong and unusual piece of fiction which may leave a (disturbing) lasting impression.
Rating: 3 out of 5
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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