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. Read more...
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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.
Stunning and atmospheric, this debut novel is 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."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-12-21
- Reviewer: Staff
This leisurely paced modern British gothic is the debut novel from journalist Chase. Thirty-two-year-old schoolteacher Lorna and her fiancé, Jon, a carpenter who works for his family construction business, are Londoners in Cornwall to inspect possible venues for their marriage celebration. One place fetching Lornas eye is the estate Pencraw Hall, better known as Black Rabbit Hall, which has seen better days. Upon their arrival, Lorna feels a close kinship to the sprawling manor house, but Jon has serious reservations and wants to leave. Lorna chats with the current owner, Caroline Alton, an aristocrat who is nearly broke. The book has a second narrative that takes place three decades earlier, further engaging the reader. Hugo Alton lives with his wife, Nancy, and their four young children at the same estate. After Nancy dies in an equine accident, the bereft Hugo introduces his family to his old American friend Caroline Shawcross, a widow, and her son, Lucian. When Hugo and Caroline marry, Hugos eldest daughter, Amber, falls in love with the older Lucian, and their taboo relationship causes a dark scandal that the Altons go to painful and cruel lengths to shield from the public eye. Lorna accepts Carolines invitation to stay at the manor house and then gets busy putting together the pieces to discover her ties to the Altons and Black Rabbit Hall. Her exposé of the family secrets paves the way to the upbeat resolution. Chase deserves high marks for her atmospheric setting and vivid prose, and fans of old-fashioned gothic stories will find this a winner. Agent: Kim Witherspoon, Inkwell Management. (Feb.)
A lush estate hides dark secrets
Is there a better setting for a mystery with a whiff of the supernatural than an English country manor house? From Thornfield Hall to Manderley, literature is replete with spooky old homes: places that pulse with untold dangers, where secrets and horrors from the past whisper from the shadows.
The eponymous estate in Eve Chase’s debut novel, Black Rabbit Hall, is one such place, though this wasn’t always the case. During the 1960s, it was the Cornish holiday home of the Alton family. Under the watchful eye of their beloved mother, children Amber, Toby, Barney and Kitty would spend lazy summers and school holidays reveling in the pursuits of childhood. But in the present day, the house sits shuttered. To stave off financial ruin, its owner has agreed to rent out the property for weddings, which brings Lorna Smith and her fiance to its gates. Although Black Rabbit Hall is entirely unsuitable for entertaining, Lorna is immediately captivated by the place and can’t shake the feeling that she has visited it before. Curiosity turns into obsession, and Lorna soon finds herself desperate to uncover Black Rabbit Hall’s tragic history.
Chase’s pacing and world-building are excellent, thoroughly setting the scene and bringing her characters to life. There is a dreamy quality to the writing that gives the novel the tenor of a Gothic fairy tale, and although there is a sense of malice and danger that thrums beneath it all, Chase’s achingly beautiful investigation of her characters’ inner lives results in a story that is haunting rather than scary. For fans of Kate Morton and Daphne du Maurier, Black Rabbit Hall is an obvious must-read, but it is sure to please any reader who delights in devilishly thrilling dramas.