A couple of weeks ago, I was perusing the Barnes & Noble bookshelves when I happened across Eve Chase‘s debut novel, Black Rabbit Hall. Something about the title and cover invoked childlike magic and mystery, so I was excited to dive into it right away.
Black Rabbit Hall follows two timelines, each focusing on a different young woman. It starts in the late 1960s, when Nancy Alton is killed in a tragic accident at her summer house, the titular Black Rabbit Hall in Cornwall. She leaves behind her husband, Hugo, and their four children: teenaged twins Amber and Toby, plus two younger kids, Barney and Kitty. Too soon, Hugo starts dating a woman named Caroline, a woman the four kids don’t like much. At first, they also don’t like Caroline’s teenaged son, Lucian, but eventually, he and Amber form a tentative connection. But the family is slowly breaking apart, and another tragedy awaits them at the end of summer 1969.
Fast forward to the early 2000s, where we meet Lorna and her fiancé Jon. They’re planning their wedding, and Lorna has her heart set on celebrating it at Pencraw Hall – aka Black Rabbit Hall. She and Jon go out to Cornwall to visit the house and confirm their arrangements. A severe woman – Mrs. Alton – shows them around and allows Lorna to extend her stay, confirming their decision to host the wedding there. But Lorna is in for some big secrets coming to life, piecing together information from her father and the mysterious Mrs. Alton.
The book moves slowly, drawing the reader into its English countryside setting where the pace of life is looser and freer. At first it feels comfortable and serene. What’s more innocent than two lovebirds looking for a wedding location? What’s more wholesome than a tight-knit family lazing away the summer days at their country estate?
But as the story tiptoes forward, the creeping vines grow tighter, weaving together a complicated and harrowing story of family secrets and tragedies. There are deaths, lies, and psychological turmoils, all wrapped up in characters you can’t help but feel close to, you can’t help but care about. Some characters grow more concerning as time goes on, while others reveal themselves to be better than first impressions would suggest. Some events you can see coming, while others are as shocking for you as for the characters in the story.
Eve Chase’s writing is dreamy yet descriptive. It brings the setting and characters to life, painting vivid images that will be memorable long after the book is over. As much as it is a domestic drama and mystery, this is also a coming-of-age novel that illuminates the events that shape our lives.
Black Rabbit Hall is a beautiful gothic family drama. It’s heart-wrenching yet warm, and Eve Chase has crafted a story that will stay with its readers. I’m happy I stumbled across this book, and I look forward to reading more from her.