Black Rabbit Hall, by Eve Chase

Black Rabbit Hall
Black Rabbit Hall

Memory can be a strange thing. It’s incomplete, malleable, and entirely dependent on perspective. Questions of memory lie at the heart of Eve Chase’s Black Rabbit Hall, along with grief, control, and manipulation. Set in two eras, the characters must navigate their way through confusion and lies to find happiness. It’s not a perfect books, but there are so few Gothic novels being written these days I’m willing to forgive Black Rabbit Hall‘s flaws.

Lorna Dunaway has been intrigued by Pencraw Hall—better known as Black Rabbit Hall—since she first saw it on a list of wedding venues. Her fiance isn’t too keen, but he’s willing to consider it until he sees how the place affects Lorna. Even though she grew up in another part of Cornwall and would have had no reason to go to Black Rabbit Hall, she has memories of being there when she was a child. To her fiance’s alarm, Lorna dives headfirst into exploring the Hall and its history.

As Lorna chases fragments of memory, the novel cuts away to the late 1960s to show us the last few summers the Alton family spent there before they disintegrated. Amber Alton holds the family together as much as any sixteen-year-old could in the wake of her mother’s death. Just when the family seems to be making their final descent into feralness, Caroline Shawcross arrives on the scene as Mr. Alton’s new wife. The Alton children greatly resent her attempts to force them into her idea of a perfect family—attempts that grow more mean-spirited and even sinister as time goes on.

Lorna and Amber are interesting narrators, but I wish we had been able to see inside Caroline’s head. Where Lorna and Amber are unambiguously good, Caroline is more complex. She’s sinister because that’s how Lorna and Amber see her. If we were able to see Caroline’s story from her own perspective, Black Rabbit Hall could have become a wonderfully complex story of dueling ambitions. Without Caroline’s perspective, the novel feels a little unbalanced.

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