BookBrowse Reviews Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase

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Black Rabbit Hall

by Eve Chase

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase X
Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2016, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2017, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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A thrilling spiral into the hearts of two women separated by decades but inescapably linked by the dark and tangled secrets of Black Rabbit Hall.

Lorna has finally found the love of her life. Her relationship with Jon has always been easy and exciting at the same time, and she can imagine spending the rest of her life with him. But, like many engaged couples, the very process of planning a wedding may prove to be the biggest test their relationship has yet faced. Lorna, who recently and unexpectedly lost her mother, finds herself inexplicably (and, in Jon's mind, irrationally) drawn to a crumbling old mansion on the Cornish coast called Pencraw Hall on the wedding website, but known to all the locals as Black Rabbit Hall. Lorna is convinced that this is the same mansion she and her mother visited together when Lorna was a child, and despite Jon pointing out the house's many leaks, crumbling plaster, and overgrown gardens, Lorna is enchanted by its romantic ambience, its beauty, and, most importantly, the fact that she feels a mysterious emotional connection to the place.

Lorna's contemporary story, during which she grows increasingly entangled with the house's elderly owner and its skittish caretaker, alternates with an account of tragedy and betrayal that unfolded at Black Rabbit Hall more than thirty years earlier. Fifteen-year-old Amber Alton has always been as close as can be to her twin brother Toby. The two of them adore their much younger siblings, as well as their vivacious American mother. Their mother, in turn, adores Black Rabbit Hall, the family's wild country retreat from their more staid London existence. But during the Easter holidays in 1969, tragedy strikes the family and sets into motion a series of events that will leave all the members of the family deeply changed – and that may result in a cascade of additional misfortunes.

At first, the connection between the two stories – separated by several decades and connected only by this ramshackle old mansion – is unclear. And while it's likely that few readers will be entirely blindsided by the revelations that eventually disclose the threads tying the Alton family's harrowing past together with Lorna's more optimistic present, few will anticipate all the thorny turns that the narrative will take before its surprisingly upbeat conclusion.

Black Rabbit Hall is drawing a number of comparisons with the beloved novels of Daphne Du Maurier, not least because of their shared setting in Cornwall, but also because of a more generalized exploration of the links between a specific, evocative place and (often devastating) family history. Chase's novel rarely shifts setting from the confines of Black Rabbit Hall and its environs; when it does, the change is both jarring and a bit liberating, as if the reader can finally take a deep breath, away from the stifling and yet spellbinding atmosphere of this place.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl

This review was originally published in April 2016, and has been updated for the July 2017 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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