Small investment, big payoff. Aickman has long been an undervalued and out of print author but is now experiencing a small revival, and this novelette is an ideal place to start. Like much of Aickman, "The Inner Room" is an entrancing seduction, an impossible mystery, and a melancholy siren song. Here memory, psychology, and the external world overlap and confound one another. This is neo-romanticism at its best, shrugging aside the mundane to expose a secret entrance to unfathomable and hazardous depths. Though often characterized as "horror," it's much better to label such Aickman stories as literary dark fantasy--or to use his own term: "strange stories."
In perhaps the most magnificent of what he called his "strange stories, Robert Aickman blurs the lines between memory, premonition and the hallucinated life. Lene, a woman now recovering from the losses of the Second World War, recalls a gothic dolls' house of her childhood and the way in which its uncanny inhabitants entered her dreams. Most chillingly, the geometries of the house didn't add up; there had to be a secret room inside it. Years later, she comes across a life-size version in a wood not marked on any map . . .