Friday, April 28, 2017

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase

Black Rabbit Hall was a spur of the moment reading choice for me, and I buzzed through it in a few days (even though I've had it checked out of the library for almost 3 weeks).  My "due back" notification had everything to do with my rush to read this, but I'm so glad I didn't just return it unread to the library.  It was just what I needed to read this week.  

This is a novel told in two voices:  Amber Alton, a fifteen year old girl in 1968; and Lorna Dunaway, over thirty years later. Amber's family owns Black Rabbit Hall in Cornwall, and the family spends holidays there.  Amber's parents are madly in love, and she has a twin brother Toby, a younger brother Barney, and a little sister named Kitty.  They are a very happy family, and the heart of the family is Amber's mother, Nancy.  
 There's something about Black Rabbit Hall that speaks to Amber and her whole family.  It's wild, it's crumbling; it's full of creaks and groans and sits near the sea, surrounded by woods and the mystery of Cornwall.  It is a world away from their life in London, where they go to school and have a perfectly beautiful home.  

All that changes the summer of 1968, when a horrible tragedy takes place one dark, stormy night.  It changes the family dynamics, and drapes Black Rabbit Hall in sadness.  What happens to the family in the following year will tear them apart.  And for you, the reader, it will leave a heck of a lot of unanswered questions that will keep you reading!

Lorna is traveling to Black Rabbit Hall to check it out as a possible wedding venue.  She remembers visiting the place with her mother as a child (vaguely) and feels drawn to it the moment they drive up the lane.  It's still crumbling, and badly needs renovations.  Her fiance Jon isn't thrilled with the place, but Lorna meets Caroline Alton, the lone resident.  She's old, cranky, and desperate to have the income generated by hosting weddings.  She asks Lorna to return and stay for a weekend to get a feel for the place. Lorna returns without Jon, and finds a whole lot more about the history of the house, the Alton children, and Caroline.  Where does Lorna fit into the story of Black Rabbit Hall?

I haven't read a book in a while that had me sitting for chunks of time turning the pages.  This book did that for me, which is a sign that the characters, plot, and writing are running on all cylinders at full tilt.  You may think the cover evokes a chilling, gothic type tale.  I got that feeling more from the scenes with Caroline than I did anywhere else.  Instead, it's a story about a happy family that is torn apart and never heals back into itself.  It's the story of one woman's desire to know her history in order to move forward with her life.  Mostly, it's the story of how we can experience tragedy and still step away from it to live happy lives. The past can haunt us, or it can simply be a part of us. 

There may be a few surprises for the reader; I didn't really have any as I was just patient and let the story unfold instead of trying to guess what was going to happen next.  I'll be reading Eve's next novel, The Wilding Sisters.  

Rating:  4/6 for a satisfying story that incorporates the wilds of Cornwall, a family tragedy, and interesting characters that keep you engaged until the satisfying ending.  

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio.  The paperback will be out in the U.S. in July, 2017.

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