Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Black Rabbit Hall - Eve Chase

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

Black Rabbit Hall is one of those places that you wish was real.  It’s an estate in Cornwall with an enormous main house in dire need of repairs and updates.  Outside, there’s a patch of woods big enough to get lost in if you’d like.  There’s a spot on the cliffs that allows you to look out over the ocean, and below that, a private beach.  For fourteen-year-old Amber, her twin Toby, and their young siblings Kitty and Barney, it’s a magical place.  The summers they spend there seem to be bits of life suspended in time.  The summer of 1968 is no different.  Long, hot days; time spent reading or dozing interspersed with trips to the shore; picnics with Momma.  Nothing ever changes at Black Rabbit Hall.  Until the day it does.  A sudden, tragic accident irrevocably changes the lives of everyone.

In the present day, there’s Lorna.  Things are changing for her, too.  Her mother recently passed away, leaving her to plan her wedding more or less alone.  At the moment, she and her fiancé, Jon, are looking for wedding venues.  Lorna wants something special, as most brides do.  When she sees an ad online for Pencraw Hall, she feels it will be perfect.  The more she thinks about it, the more she absolutely must see it.  Arriving one afternoon, Lorna meets the owner, Mrs. Alton.  The elderly widow lives in the manor house alone, except for a couple of women who cook and clean.  Most of the house is shut off, but Lorna loves it.  Jon does not.  When Mrs. Alton invites Lorna to come back for a few days as a sort of a ‘test drive’ in the place, Lorna feels compelled to do so. 

I am floored by the realization that this is a first novel.  It’s beautifully-written, almost lyrical in tone.  The descriptive passages are so evocative that I felt I was there, with the characters, experiencing what they did.  I’ve heard comparisons to “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier, and I think that’s fairly accurate.  The plotlines are different, but the overall tone is there.  The tale is a sort of gothic tale.  The house seems almost magical; it’s like a character in its own right.  Eventually, the two plots above merge, of course.  I will not write another word about it, though.  Each reader should have the pleasure of experiencing it unspoiled.  This is the kind of book you can open up and fall into, never wanting to leave.  I admit that I felt a pang of loss when I turned the last page.  I can only hope for many, many more novels from this author.

Rating: 9
February 2016
ISBN# 978-0-399-17415-4 (hardcover) 
            978-0-698-19145-7 (eBook)


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