on 30 December 2012
My love of Aycliffe's work began with his Book The Lost which I bought by chance simply because I liked the cover. I hurriedly began hunting his other novels down and enthusiastically recommending his work to friends. Very few authors write ghost stories and creeping tales of dread and terror as well as he does. If you like M.R. James then you'll probably like Aycliffe, though Naomi's Room does become a little more grisly as it reaches it's shocking ending. It is such a shame nothing new has come from his pen in recent years.
The first three quarters of this book were quite brilliant. It was a suspense filled ghost story to rival Susan Hill's "The Woman in Black" until suddenly it all went to pieces.
The beginning of the story is simple enough with the picture of a happy academic couple just approaching Christmas when their daughter is 4 years old. It all goes to pieces when their daughter, Naomi, disappears on a London shopping trip. Small clues from the start of the book start to take on a different meaning and all is very much not as it seems.
The author creates a very natural scene of a couple torn apart when they loose their only daughter. Strange sounds start in the house and pictures have extra people in them. This is all a very traditional style of ghost story which has brilliant suspense and leaves the reader not wanting to put it down. All the traditional ghost story props are there - photos, locked attics, things being moved & Jonathan Aycliffe really makes the most of them. He also takes things a step further with feelings of menace, overpowering hatred and lust.
Unfortunately the author is unable to sustain this level of writing and seems to go adrift in a big way. Instead of continuing the brilliant atmosphere and suspense of the ghost story it lurches into some sort of second rate horror story with mass murders and excessive descriptions of gore. In a matter of a couple of pages the atmosphere is gone and the reader is left feeling very cheated. Ghost stories should be full of suggestions and atmosphere so that the reader's own imagination takes over rather than descriptions of blood and gore.
I felt very cheated at the end of this book. The author could have arrived at the same ending whilst continuing with the same style of writing. There was no need to lurch into a second rate horror novel that didn't do his earlier writing justice. I really felt the writer let himself down. What caused this change - a rush for a deadline? The author ran out of steam? Who knows but it was terrible mistake on the part of the author and the publisher to allow this to happen.
on 16 April 2004
This is the only book i have ever read that has truly scared the hell out of me. It changes the whole atmosphere of the room you are in, and sends constant shivers up your spine, even on repeated readings! The story flows very well. Every person i know that has read it finished in one sitting, they just found they couldn't stop reading it. it is a very shocking and gruesome story, but it is not graphic as such, your imagination fills in all those bits better than they could ever be written. it's just a shame this book is out of print, i think it would sell very well if re-released especially seeing as there are rumors of a movie being made, although i am a little sceptical of how true to the book it will end up. i shall leave you now saying only this, venture into naomi's room, i promise you will not be dissapointed
on 27 June 2013
A really creepy horror story. Spooky and haunting. The writer manages to build up great atmospheres of terror. The plot reveals itself at good speed, with great need to keep turning the page. I read this within 2 nights, hooked on it. The writing is well crafted and flows nicely. The writer is excellent at describing the hauntings, sending a chill through my bones.
However, I felt the ending was rushed, surprising and cliche all at once. It felt like maybe an easy way out to end it, even if it quite a brutal way to end it.
What a confusing novel. Some parts are superbly creepy and original but; when the plot moves into 'the attic' it falls into little more than cliche, the pitfall of many horror writers, and remains there far too long.
It's true to say the opening chapters are extremely good. I was hooked by the particularly dark themes and gory discoveries. Unfortunately, Aycliffe expands the plot too far taking his reader on a whirlwind trip from the traditional tale of a haunted house through to themes of Jack the Ripper, the history of the Huguenots, the philosophy of The Rosecrutionist's and scenes of modern torture. There's just too much going on and the strings holding all of that complexity together can be incredibly weak.
Aycliffe creates good tension when exploring the aftermath of the disappearance of a child. Those areas in which he reveals how a golden couple fall from the height of their comfortable, safe existence of academia, music and travel through to total destruction are harrowing and very, very believable. I was surprised at how far he took some of those themes and, later in the novel, expands them to include visceral scenes of abuse and torture. Those scenes are so far from the core of the plot they jar against it and appear to have been added just for effect.
It's not all bad, though chunks of it certainly are, and Aycliffe rescues his novel time and again with his excellent characterisation. He really is good at 'people' to the point I was genuinely moved at the plight of Naomi's parents. My only negative in that respect would have to be the absolute concentration on the father. After a while the endless view of what was going on inside the confines of his head began to irritate.
I loved the idea behind this story. A mix of dreadful ghouls, abduction, murder, madness and the slow uncovering of the real history of the house seemed too good to be true. At times Naomi's Room gave exactly what it promised and was both hugely entertaining and creepy. Unfortunately, I found myself endlessly irritated by the overly complex vocabulary, huge leaps away from the central plot and the use of completely random links to carry the story forward.
Overall Naomi's Room is worth a read. If you're a fan of the supernatural and read a lot of horror you might find yourself underwhelmed. In it's favour are the wide variety of twists and turns and the discovery of what really happened to Naomi.
on 30 October 2013
I read this book back in the early nineties when I was in my early 20s, I read mainly horror and ghost stories then
and this book really stood out among the rest.
it was one of the most creepiest books I think I have ever read then and since.
I cant remember the story very well but I certainly remember the feelings it gave me.
I passed it on to my mum when I had finished, I don't think she liked it very much, FOR ALL THE RIGHT REASONS
now ive found it on amazon I will read it again and hope it has stood the test of time. (forgive me if it hasn't)
it was creepy, spooky, not gory. just a great ghost story. I certainly have not found many others since that have not
I hope you will give it a try.
For about three quarters of this book I was swept up and admiring Aycliffe's ability to layer on unsettling, heart-pounding unease, in this story of a disappeared child. This was well-crafted, even M.R. Jamesian in its ability to unsettle and disturb the reader. Like some other reviewers I was unable to read this at night, settling for daylight hours only.
The story of a missing and then murdered child, and the investigation by her parents, particularly her father, and the sense of palpable, creeping, ghostly malevolent evil reminded me increasingly of The Omen [DVD] , particularly when some rather gruesome and visceral shocks began to occur.
However, what began well and was sustained and intensifying, with the child's parents and other investigators getting chillingly increasingly disturbed by what they were begin to unravel, then began to descend, quickly and in an overdone fashion into schlocky and savagely described horror; in fact, the story changed genres. For the most part, the book had felt 'realistic' in the way that the best ghost writers do, but the final Liddley unravelling, and the segment with Charles' sister felt gratuitous, slasher horror fest. Unfortunately the book then unravelled backwards for me, with the character of Laura, in particular, becoming less and less plausible, as aspects of her behaviour and interior landscape, slightly strange at times as I read, being revealed as rather crass plot devices.
The bulk of the book was product of a much more psychologically clever and restrained imagination than the last section, which felt implausible, rushed, and curiously, as if it had run out of steam, as the various carefully teased out threads were suddenly covered in buckets of overdone gore.
on 20 July 2015
This book starts with an academic writing about the academic life in Cambridge University. He, like several thousand novel narrators before him, has written a thesis about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Then his daughter is snatched and killed and, by the end of the book, he is raping his own sister under the possession of a devil ghost. If that is a spoiler, then I make no apologies for it, because your response should be either a) that sounds revolting; I shan't bother reading that or b) Oh good, I love stories about demonic incestuous rape; I just hope I can get all that Sir Gawain stuff out of the way quickly. If you choose (b), then I wish you well with Naomi's room and I hope never to be locked in a dark attic with you.
The hysterical and absurd second half of this book is all the more disappointing because Aycliffe can clearly write - the description of the fateful trip to London that leads to Naomi's abuction is beautifully written and heart-rending. Even the pantomime villain is well researched and given a proper character. However, the novel just doesn't work. For a start, there is the dual, 'before and after' timeline, where the sections in the present are dull and take all the pacing out of the novel. In the 'present' section, every paragraph ends with a portentous 'but that was just the start of it' note, which is hokey for the first few times and then just laughable. Secondly, the character of Lewis, the photographer who serves as a plot exposition device, is nonsensical - the narrator treats him as almost omniscient for no better reason than because he is Welsh and a former alcoholic, as far as I could tell. Thirdly, when things start getting weird and things start to go bump in the night, none of the characters behave in any way rationally. The novel is (mercifully) short, but this means that the speed of unravelling is ludicrously fast and the timeline of when things happen and how the characters react to them makes absolutely no sense. Finally, (and I won't spoil it for any sister-rape fans out there), there is a revelation towards the end, thrown in so casually that it is as if Aycliffe himself is embarrassed by it, which is just so skull-crushingly stupid that I have spent several minutes investigating whether it is possible to give a book zero stars. Horrible.
Ghost stories are not easy to write well. There is a reservoir of ingredients: isolated houses, children, dolls, mists, suspicious locals etc. which it is difficult to avoid calling upon. In today's secular society there is little serious belief in the supernatural, so that world does not evoke the fear it once did. All the more credit to Jonathan Aycliffe then that he succeeds in making us suspend our disbelief, while shunning many of the clichés of the genre. However, this is as much a horror story as a ghost story, or perhaps it would be truer to say that what begins as a ghost story becomes more and more steeped in horror.
As others, I found the first half of the book gripping, a real page-turner. Charles is a convincing character, a bit pedantic but a credible university don. From the opening scene in Hamley's, the tension is skilfully built up, the writing all the more effective for restraint. Although there are dark implications of various kinds, nothing prepares us for the savagery of the later sections of the book. If torture, mutilation and incest are your cup of tea then there is a feast in store for you. For me, these elements are not only repulsive but gratuitous and offer no sort of satisfying ending to what began as such a promising ghost story. Subtlety gives way to horrific brutality, nuances of suggestion to, crude accounts of unspeakable acts. The story has careered hopelessly out of control. Sad,for Aycliffe can write and hold the reader's attention without these abominations.
on 29 June 2016
SLIGHT SPOILERS: Within five minutes of beginning "Naomi's room" I was totally spooked. Jonathan Aycliffe begins the book brilliantly, laying clues as to what is in store but letting the story gradually unfold. Charles a young academic goes shopping in Hamley's toy store on Christmas Eve with his young daughter Naomi. He take his eyes off his daughter for a matter of seconds and Naomi is gone. At first it is assumed that she has simply got lost in the huge store but, as the afternoon turns to evening and the store closes, it become apparent that something more sinister has happened to her. The sense of panic that engulfs Charles and his guilt when he has to inform his wife, Laura is all too real as is the compassion of the store manager. After Naomi's disappearance odd and inexplicable things start happening in their home. The part of the book that frightened me the most was the discovery of some photographs taken over a long period of time. The sense of malice is palpable. I didn't enjoy the end of the book so much. I felt that some of the violence, especially that against children, was a little gratuitous and I would have preferred a more subtle conclusion, Nevertheless I will definitely be ordering more of this author's work. If you enjoyed "Naomi's Room" I would recommend "The Woman in Black" by Susan Hill, "The Shining" by Stephen King and "Don't Look Now" by Daphne Du Maurier.