Black Rabbit Hall: Review
Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase
This book was recommended to me by a friend ages ago! It was sitting in my to-read pile for weeks, until finally I managed to sit down and begin. I was hooked from the start. The only thing I questioned was why had I taken so damn long to read it?!
Firstly, what a brilliant opening sentence:
"I feel safe on the cliff ledge, safer than in the house anyway."
This sentence, with its tone, its setting, its haunting foreshadowing, sets the rest of the book up perfectly.
Set in Cornwall, Black Rabbit Hall follows what happens to the Alton family in the space of just under 2 years. We hear it from Amber’s point of view, the eldest daughter of the family, who has a younger brother and sister and also a twin brother called Toby, who is both lovable and highly disturbing. Over the time span in the late 60s, Amber has to grow up, both mentally and physically, and battles with her guilt, her budding sexual passions, and her love/hate relationship with her family members. All the while, she and her family are thrown tragedy, heartache, corruption, greed, jealousy, and guilt.
Amber’s chapters alternate with Lorna’s. Lorna’s story takes place three decades after Amber’s, but we know these characters are going to be linked in some way, although it is not clear to us or to Lorna exactly how until the climax. Lorna is engaged to Jon, and we are thrown into their story when they are trying to find the perfect wedding venue. Lorna finds Black Rabbit Hall and her adventure begins. She must find out from the odd characters left remaining in the ruinous hall just how she is connected to this grand place, and in doing so, discover the past that was kept a secret from her all her life.
Eve Chase writes this book so beautifully. These are just a couple of passages which took my breath away whilst reading:
"The drawing room walls are a dark foggy blue and the spitting fire in the grate that Dill has hurriedly lit makes the room airlessly sleepy, as if caught in the late unreal hours of a cold winter’s night. Thick grey woodsmoke curls up the huge chimney before changing its mind and rolling slowly back into the room like a sea fog."
"There are so many different shades of black, from oily kohl to something that is beyond colour, an abyss in the shadows beneath the drop of the curtain. The darkness is not still either. It moves, billowing, contracting, alive."
How gloriously gothic! There are hundreds more beguiling passages like these, but I don’t want to give anything away! You’ll have to read it for yourself.
Who is it for?
Anyone who loves the Gothic. From the creepy characters, the tragic events, the unrelenting suspense, to the ruinous hall and the isolated setting beside dark woodlands, high cliff edges, and rolling sea, this book is deliciously dark and enthralling. There is love, passion and romance. There is tragedy, loss and betrayal. The characters are well-written and absorbing, with a marvellously wicked antagonist who I often screamed at. This book is for anyone who wants to feel something and also loves a mystery.
5/5. I honestly loved it. It was a joy to pick up and I was disappointed when I had to get on with other reading. I would whole-heartedly recommend it.
It averages at 3.5/5 on Goodreads, with some commenting that the storyline in the ‘60s is stronger than the modern storyline. I agree to some extent in that my favourite part was Amber’s story, but I still think both timelines contributed nicely, and if you like suspense, this is a great technique to keep you guessing and turning the page, whilst simultaneously throwing you clues. Other criticism is that it is somewhat far-fetched. For me, the characters were well thought out. Perhaps there were areas of storyline that most real-life people wouldn’t do, such as staying in the crumbling hall alone, with only the creepy old lady and peculiar and naïve maid for company. But… it’s a novel! As a reader of this type of fiction, I want to be transported into a different world that is scary. Of course I wouldn’t actually put myself into that situation! But I like to see the characters in these situations, driven sometimes by an unexplainable desire to find out secrets, whatever they may cost. It makes for exciting reading. And I certainly don’t think that the storyline was too far-fetched or unbelievable that it was unreadable or cringe-worthy; it was no Hollywood action movie!
Where can you buy it:
Pretty much anywhere, but I got my version from Amazon.
Eve Chase, in her own words:
I write from a shed/studio in my garden in Oxford, accompanied by bits of wildlife that creep over the threshold to investigate my biscuit crumbs. A small space, it's perfect for cooking up bigger ones: sprawling, richly dysfunctional families, stories that seed into the cracked mortar of old houses. I love to read about such things, and write about them. I also love a cracking narrative pace. Words that dance on the tongue. Characters you want to scoop up and put in your pocket for safe keeping.
I'm married with three children.
I dream of Black Rabbit Hall's boot room.
View her news, other books, reviews and more on her website.