Pub. Date: February 9, 2015
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Putnam!!)
Summary: Ghosts are everywhere, not just the ghost of Momma in the woods, but ghosts of us too, what we used to be like in those long summers . . .
Amber Alton knows that the hours pass differently at Black Rabbit Hall, her London family’s country estate, where no two clocks read the same. Summers there are perfect, timeless. Not much ever happens. Until, of course, it does.
More than three decades later, Lorna is determined to be married within the grand, ivy-covered walls of Pencraw Hall, known as Black Rabbit Hall among the locals. But as she’s drawn deeper into the overgrown grounds, half-buried memories of her mother begin to surface and Lorna soon finds herself ensnared within the manor’s labyrinthine history, overcome with an insatiable need for answers about her own past and that of the once-happy family whose memory still haunts the estate.
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction, Gothic
Much like Beatriz Williams’s Along the Infinite Sea (which also happens to be from Putnam!) Black Rabbit Hall is a novel that I have no intention on ‘properly’ reviewing, since nothing I say could possibly do it justice. The only thing better than receiving one of your most highly anticipated releases is when that book goes so far above and beyond all expectations to the point where you can’t even mention it without jazz hands and excited hops.
Told in a dual narrative format (♥ my favorite ♥) Black Rabbit Hall explores the bonds between siblings, how whispers become legend, and how tragedy can turn a once-beloved childhood home into a nightmare. Twins Amber and Toby (he, the left side to her right) and their two younger siblings eagerly await the end of each school term, the start of their glorious summer holiday and return to the family’s country estate, Black Rabbit Hall. When tragedy strikes one stormy afternoon, however, the Altons’ world changes forever and the house they once loved now feels as though it’s closing in on them. The sprawling grounds and airy rooms seem to be contracting by the second.
Decades later the house, now succumbing to time and the elements, is little more than a pile of stone – and just as safe. In an attempt to gather funds for repairs, the now-elderly Mrs. Alton begrudgingly opens her gates as a wedding venue. Despite the drafty (okay, more like freezing) rooms and a ballroom roof that allows more rain in than it keeps out, Lorna knows this is the place. Ignoring her fiance’s protests, she insists they make the trip to the estate – there’s something about Black Rabbit Hall that’s just so familiar to her and her father’s roundabout answers aren’t helping matters.
Black Rabbit Hall is one of those books that’s So. Hard. for me to discuss in any coherent manner. Anything I type wants to come out bolded and in all caps with about a million exclamation points. That’s exactly what this novel did to me – it completely sucked me in, embraced me in its ivy-covered walls and held on tight. I’m so disappointed and frustrated that quotations from ARCs are frowned upon; not only is the story itself beautiful, but the writing is downright breathtaking. I’m floored that this is a debut (and can you possibly write something new right now, Ms. Chase please and thank you.)
When a novel is pitched as being for readers of Daphne du Maurier and Kate Morton and blurbed by a slew of authors (Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, Rowan Coleman, Katie Fforde, John Harwood, Wendy Webb, etc) you take note. With its mentions of a crumbling English estate, dark family secrets, forbidden love, and Gothic feel, I was immediately interested. Black Rabbit Hall is a book that has my name written all over it and not once did it let me down! Its only downfall was that it eventually came to an end.
While reading I lived and breathed these characters. From angry and confused Toby to little Barney and a stepmother seemingly ripped right from an ancient fairy tale, I fell hard for each and every one of them. And it wasn’t just the humans that made the story! No, Black Rabbit Hall itself came alive and, in some ways, was more of the central figure than Amber and Lorna.
I truly could wax poetic about this novel for days. I loved it, I lived and breathed it, I didn’t want to let go when it was over. Although it wasn’t as supernatural as I had expected, it is still easily a Top Read of the year for me and one I’ve been gushing over since reading it in November. Buy this book. Read it, devour it, and then come find me so we can flail and squeal over it together. Ms. Chase, you’re now on my radar and I absolutely cannot wait to see what you do next!