When reading the summary of Black Rabbit Hall, Eve Chase’s novel appears to offer a familiar but intriguing story. While aimed towards a female adult reader, the plot seemed reminiscent of those read during teenage years as a break from schoolwork and the classics: an infusion of mystery and a deeply personal narrative. Be that as it may, Black Rabbit Hall proved to be a story filled with an increasingly frustrating – and arguably controversial – plot, countless red herrings, and confusingly written sentences that were borderline unreadable.
There is big problem with the choice of language and descriptions used by Eve Chase. There is a density with the language created by the frequent rhetorical tropes used by the author right from the outset. Even from the prologue, everything seems to have more than one description, as if it is a necessity. It also leads to many short, stunted sentences, further prolonging the narrator’s thoughts and preventing the story from developing at a reasonable pace. All these issues make the narrative quite tiring to read. Thankfully, this style of writing is not permanent, gradually decreasing and allowing the author to focus more on the story she is trying to tell. That said, this novel isn’t saved from a number of choice descriptions, such as Chase’s absurd likening a moving red fiat to a rolling drop of blood.
Admittedly, it has to be said that the story is exactly as described in the novel’s blurb; however, while it is not deceiving, instead it is simply disappointing. The relationships between the characters feel disjointed, in the same way the Alton family are following the tragedy that occurs early on. The hardships and deaths that the younger protagonist, Amber, and her family endure throughout the novel seem relentless, to the point that some of the greatest tragedies feel totally unnecessary, just another blow in an attempt to pull at the reader’s heartstrings.
As for the growing mystery within the story, the narrative chosen by the author diffuses this suspense. When it comes to double-narratives, whether they mirror the same events, or take place years apart, within this sort of style and the mystery genre there nearly always is some sort of relationship between the two protagonists. Unfortunately for ‘Black Rabbit Hall’, the likely relationship between Amber and Lorna that readers may ponder at the beginning proves to be exactly what is going on, albeit a long series of dragged-out red herrings and deceptions that are not interesting; they are infuriating. Once more, what underlies the story’s main plot twist – a strangely twisted form of incest that is enforced and removed almost arbitrarily – is not enjoyable to read and instead deeply uncomfortable.
While for the most part the story is deeply distressing, filled with tragic loss and young children struggling with the fact that they must grow up too quickly and adapt to a new life they are not prepared for nor willing to conform to, there is (some) redemption in the novel’s close. Thankfully, the author decides to give the story the happiest ending she could have managed, although it is not entirely satisfying.
Overall, the trials faced by the protagonists and their families are in equal measure to the frustrations that the readers must overcome in reading this book. While Chase is successful in tying up all the loose ends in ‘Black Rabbit Hall’, the mysteries solved were perhaps best left unwritten in the first place.