“Rooms” was the first book that introduced me to the writing of Lauren Oliver; it was also her debut novel written for adults.
It begins after the death of a prosperous man named Richard Walker. This incident triggers a concatenation of events starting with the return of Mr. Walker's estranged family to his old manor, which sets the stage for the book. Almost every scene and reminiscence takes place within one of the house’s many rooms, and the structure is still inhabited by two ethereal – and more or less permanent – residents: the moralistic, strait-laced Alice, and the derisive Sandra. They are the two main narrators of the novel. However, members of the newly-arrived family also have chapters told from their points of view. Slowly, secrets begin to emerge, and the reader discovers that the pasts of many intertwine and the veil between life and death is blurred.
What captivated me most about Oliver’s book was the originality of her portrayal of the afterlife. For example, the mansion that the ghosts haunt is their “body.” Every room is like a limb (the staircase is their spine; the pipes are their intestines, etc.).
I also relished the author’s beautiful, lyrical prose. She weaves together events of the present and the past and illustrates each of the character’s unique personalities effortlessly. The result is a fictional masterpiece: a tapestry that fuses elements of multiple genres to challenge the cliché of the traditional ghost story. Oliver leaves some aspects of her novel open to the interpretation of her readers, which made it even more appealing to me.
“Rooms” is a ghost story, a love story, a story brimming with secrets and enigmas buried deep within the narrative’s surface and its colourful, many-layered characters. But in a lot of ways, it is also a family drama. Anyone who enjoys great story-telling and unravelling mysteries will love this book.