Black Rabbit Hall
With Black Rabbit Hall, Eve Chase has crafted a Gothic novel that ticks all the genre boxes in a way that could be boringly formulaic, but isn’t — the sensuous prose and adept pacing saves the novel and lends the requisite level of depth, suspense, and ambiance to make for a good read.
In 1968, the Altons are one blissful family, centered around a vibrant mother who serves as hub and anchor for her husband and four children: teenaged twins Toby and Amber, little brother Barney, and toddler Kitty. The family spends idyllic summers at the ancestral estate in Cornwall, Black Rabbit Hall. But as this is a Gothic novel, the idyll cannot survive for long. In a dual storyline set in the present, thirty-something Lorna, searching for the perfect venue for her wedding, is mysteriously drawn to crumbling Black Rabbit Hall, inhabited now only by a single servant and decrepit, cold, terrible Mrs. Alton. When Lorna looks into the house’s history, she discovers the tragedies that befell the Alton children, and why she cannot resist the pull of the manor house and its former occupants.
This novel has strong characterization and an exceptionally tactile feel — from the smell of a child’s skin to the stillness of a long-closed room, Chase’s prose provides a feast for the senses. The dialogue and inner lives of her characters are likewise skillfully crafted. Using the tried and true method of switching between alternate storylines, the pacing and thus suspense are maintained. The ending is perhaps too satisfactorily pat to warrant the comparisons with du Maurier touted by the cover blurbs, but fans of the Gothic will eat this novel with a spoon — it’s a delicious way to spend a stormy evening.