An Enigmatic Gothic Tale | Review of ‘Black Rabbit Hall’

By Cynthia Ayala

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase
G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Amber Alton has spent all her summers in Black Rabbit Hall, there was always a light that lit up the country estate. Summer was perfect, until the day that devastation struck. Now the perfect summers became ghosts of what they once were.

Decades later, Lorna is determined to have her wedding within the crumbling walls of Black Rabbit Hall, commonly known as Pencraw Hall. Something is pulling her in, something that will change her life forever.

One dark secret connects these two women and keep them tangled within the ivy walls of Black Rabbit Hall.

Published on February 9, 2016 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase is a creative gothic tale that focuses on the people in the gothic manor rather than the gothic manor itself.

The story begins with a very ominous tone and brings in both gothic and un-gothic tropes to tell the story. Chase has set the story within a gothic manor that has a personality of its own, the dark family secret and the wicked stepmother. Those are all common tropes that outline the base level of the story. However, here, they all take on a life of their own in order to build up the story. Beginning with a very ominous and dark tone, Chase draws the reader in. Then flash forwards at least three decades to another woman and her fiancé on a trip to check out wedding venues leading them to discover Pencraw Hall, known by the residents as Black Rabbit Hall. There readers really get the sense that there is something drawing the young woman into the house, and as the piece goes back and forth between the past and the texts present there is a curiosity that begins to wiggle at the reader. On the surface, it seems as though nothing could possibly tie these two very distinct stories together, but the writing is so well done that the language just molds the story together, making it whole despite how very different they are.

The women are very different characters and have completely different lives so it is interesting to see how the present bounces off and plays off the past. Amber is very bright; she’s a very strong character who keeps her family together. Lorna is a very lost character; she’s looking for something, some connection to the past and to Pencraw Hall, especially after the death of her mother. Both characters lose a mother and how they respond to those events are very different. One moves on in and the other begins to grapple at straws within the past. That’s how the story evolves. And the language is beautiful. Some events become somewhat predictable due to the novels present, but the reader is not drawn from away because of the predictability. Instead, the writing urges the reader forward, igniting the curiosity of the reader. The reader wants to read how the present became the present much like Lorna, joining her on this journey to discover the meaning behind the house, to discover the past and see what led up to everything.

Moreover, the tension rises along that journey, the pace quickens, and it moves faster and faster, leading up to those final moments that are both beautiful and heartbreaking. Caroline is a despicable character, very much the wicked stepmother from fairy tales where some pity is felt for her, but the more horrible she becomes, the less one pities her. That’s how the story functions. It plays off classic tropes and makes a fresh story out of it, one that has amazing and beautiful language to it that is able to tie two seemingly different stories together beautifully. (★★★★☆ | B+)

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