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  • TITLE:Naomi's Room
  • AUTHOR: Jonathan Aycliffe


This is Ghost, Haunted House variety. Persuing the list of top scares in this category, I realize I have not read many of them, such as:


The Collected Stories
M. R. James
Daphne Du Maurier
The Haunting of Hill House
Shirley Jackson
Hell House
Richard Matheson
Burnt Offerings
Robert Marasco
The Amityville Horror
Jay Anson
The House Next Door
Anne Rivers Siddons
Peter Straub
The Woman in Black
Susan Hill
Douglas Clegg
House of Leaves
Mark Z. Danielewski
Cold Heart Canyon
Clive Barker


But on the list I have read, Naomi's Room is toward the top, not quite to The Shining or The Turn of the Screw level, and certainly not of the creative headiness of Michael McDowell's The Elementals, but not down there grubbing with The Keep, either. The prose is economical and straight forward; it doesn't allow you to detachdefense mechanism!but makes the horror of it bite into your fragile emotions when it chooses to come for you. There is no explanation for the supernatural other than mankind's unconditional and ubiquitous sins warp the world in unsuspecting ways. "Something happened in this house a long time ago, something that is still troubling it"(p.117), is a very prosaic generalization; I prefer the newspaper photographer's theory . . .


"Was it possible that Lewis was right, that it was not [them] who were insubstantial but we ourselves? That [they] did not manifest within our realm, but we in [theirs]? If so, was it not possible that, on such occasions, [they] might have power over the flesh, as [they] had had in life. It seemed plausible, as much as any of it was plausbile."



. . . which is kinda like riding around in a limo with 8 doorsquite a stretch.

Fortunately the heart of the novel lies in its genre tradition and is not so thin. It is a solid, absorbed haunting. It is narrated from contempory times by Charles Hillenbrand, the father, in a defeated, lamented tone, bringing us along the sad trail of lives 20 years ago in 1970, when he got his professorship from Cambridge and, with his wife Laura and 4-year-old daughter Naomi, moved into an older home in the area. Everything is quite Rockwellian until Charles loses Naomi that Christmas in a department store(1). She's found dead soon after. It is the start of more deaths surrounding this hellish incident. It also brings attention to the phantoms' activity in this temporal world, specifically through a walled-off room in the Hillenbrand's attic. When the spectral visits become apparent, Naomi is seen as "what her killer made her: handless, bloodied, featureless"(p.46).


1) The irony of this event shouldn't be overlooked: this is a celebration that includes a supernatural being bringing wanted, precious things to children, and therefore contentment to the parents. As long as they can pay for that contentment, that is.

text only © copyright 07/15/2015 by Larry Crawford

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