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 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.
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 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.
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 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.
on 3 January 2014
I bought this blindly for 99p. Having very little idea what I was about to read I started and was gripped from the beginning, or should I say 'for' the beginning. The first 1/3 of this book I would give 5 stars, the second, 4 and the final merely 3 which is what lowers my overall rating. Towards the end it feels like a different book. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the whole thing but my enjoyment dwindled as the story went on. A good read, and well worth the 99p but not outstanding.
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.
When I bought Naomi's Room by Jonathan Aycliffe, I had some vague idea that it was a dark, creepy but ultimately realistic psychological thriller about a man trying to unravel the mystery of his missing child.
Turns out I was wrong. Naomi's Room is a full-on terrifying horror story, complete with ghosts and gruesomeness.
Charles Hillenbrand, an ageing academic living alone in a large Cambridge house, is tortured not only by the loss of his five-year-old daughter Naomi twenty or so years previously but also by the relentless haunting of his home. As the novel proceeds, we begin to learn what happened to Naomi and why Hillenbrand still lives alone, dogged by the oppressive, malevolent ghosts who torment him daily.
From the moment Hillenbrand begins to talk of strange noises and odd happenings in Naomi's old nursery, I was pleasingly unsettled: the ghost story elements of this novel are extremely well-executed and for me, among the most frightening I've read. Most of the novel relates what happened at the time of Naomi's disappearance, and does so very effectively, but for me it's the present-day narrative, the story of Hillenbrand living by himself and unable to find peace, that really does have the fearfully oppressive, claustrophobic feel of the most terrifying ghost stories (another excellent example of this is Michelle Paver's Dark Matter, probably the most frightening book I've ever read) - although there are certainly elements to the 1970s chapters - most notably the intervention of a photographer whose pictures prove chillingly revealing - that also made me shiver.
Where I found Naomi's Room a little less successful were the points at which things escalated into gore and violence. There are times when Aycliffe leaves particular things unsaid, planting terrifying images in the reader's mind through hints and allusions, and this is highly effective (not to mention skilled). But there also one or two sections in the book that are explicitly gruesome and edging into sadistic territory. There is perhaps a degree to which these were necessary, as - without giving too much away - a certain shock value is required at certain moments in the story, but I found myself wondering if some of the horror might have been more skin-crawlingly eerie and less Grand Guignol if Aycliffe had just reined it in a little. I also felt that some of the characters were rather under-explored, which in some ways made their fates seem more gratuitous. I'd like to have seen them developed into more than victims.
All in all, though, Naomi's Room is incredibly scary in places and, unlike far too many horror novels, well-written in terms of the quality of Aycliffe's prose and with a tautly efficient, tension-building structure. Just be wary of reading it in the house alone...
on 3 August 2013
I bought this book last December and it sat on my Kindle unread until yesterday when I thought I would give it a go completely unaware after so long even what the basic plot was. Needless to say I was not disappointed in it. Baring a likeness to Paranormal Activity, The Woman in Black, aspects of The Omen with some creepy 'twins' like in The Shining thrown in for good measure. I found myself reading at every available opportunity in my quest to find out what would happen, then having to sleep with a light on just in case. It is truly chilling and in parts quite graphic, but overall a really good read and I look forward to reading more of his books.