Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase

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Obviously a book cover can have me at ‘hello’ but does anyone else get seduced by the title of a novel? I think the name Black Rabbit Hall promises so much intrigue, so much magic. This was a book I wasn’t willing to wait until it came out in paperback for. I bought it hot off the hardback press, just in time to sit by my mums swimming pool in France and devour, along with copious glasses of kir royale.

Amber Alton is about to pass a¬†summer in Cornwall 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, one stormy evening in 1968, it does. The idyllic world of the four Alton children is shattered. Fiercely bonded by the tragic events, they grow up fast. But when a glamorous stranger arrives, these loyalties are tested. Forbidden passions simmer. And another catastrophe looms…Decades later, Lorna and her fiance wind their way through the countryside searching for a wedding venue. Lorna is drawn to a beautiful crumbling old house she hazily remembers from her childhood, feels a bond she does not understand. When she finds a disturbing message carved into an old oak tree by one of the Alton children, she begins to realise that Black Rabbit Hall’s secret history is as dark and tangled as its woods, and that, much like her own past, it must be brought into the light. A thrilling spiral into the hearts of two women separated by decades but inescapably linked by Black Rabbit Hall. A story of forgotten childhood and broken dreams, secrets and heartache, and the strength of a family’s love.

Black Rabbit Hall is a gothic, romantic tale told from the two¬†perspectives of present day Lorna and 1960s Amber, seamlessly moving between the two eras.¬†It’s¬†so atmospheric, full of beautiful descriptions of the old house and it’s glorious surroundings. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

 

 

The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard

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If you haven’t read any of the Cazalet Chronicles then I suggest you remedy that right now. Here’s a link to Waterstones where you can buy all five books. What are you waiting for? Go!

I was given a set of Elizabeths Jane Howard’s five wonderful books¬†by my mum for my 40th birthday. I had never heard of them before. But when I opened up the first in the series, The Light years, I was¬†introduced to a world of enchanted childhoods and old fashioned, endless summers and I was hooked immediately. My only problem was trying not to read all of them at once.

The Light Years¬†begins in 1937 at the family estate, Home Place, in the heart of the Sussex countryside. Three generations of the Cazalet family are home for a summer of lavish meals, picnics on the beach and long, lazy sunny days. But things aren’t always¬†so idealistic, there is a grittiness to this book which undercuts the occasional cosiness

Along with their extended family, their children and their servants, a fascinating drama of love affairs, sibling relationships and rivalries begins, against the backdrop of impending war and devastating loss, and stretches across five novels.

The books are told cleverly through the¬†narrative point of view of¬†over a dozen characters, so that the stories are brought to us in relatively short bursts. However if you think all those characters sharing the storyline would be complicated or confusing you’d be wrong, Howard’s characterisation and clear story telling means that we know exactly who is who and what part of the story is developing. She’s an incredibly clever and confident story teller.

If you are fascinated by social history and the intricacies of familial relationships, there is nothing you won’t love about these books. And the great thing is if you devour The Light Years in a few days, like I did, you have another four books to read.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

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I am a sucker for a book that looks as if it might be perfect to cosy up with under a blanket by the fire to read. And if it promises a thrilling mystery tinged with a large does of fear, then all the better. So when I saw the cover of In a Dark, Dark Wood I absolutely had to read it.

Six people gather in a large, modern house in the middle of the woods for an old friend’s hen weekend. ¬†Novelist Nora, the main protagonist, hasn’t seen bride-to-be Clare for years, and it seems there is some long-held animosity between them. Clare’s friend Flo appears to be totally obsessed with her, and slightly unhinged. There is much forced-fun and drinking, and plenty of tense moments between the six invitees.

As the narrative raced¬†along, I got sucked into the plot, with¬†a keen-ness¬†to discover the secret between¬†Nora and Clare. Then the story¬†started to divide between the telling of events in the house, and from Nora’s hospital bed where she has obviously sustained injury but struggles to remember what happened.

In the Dark, Dark Wood has all the makings of a classic, closed-house murder mystery: the house remote and shut off from the outside world, and the characters with their hidden secrets. The relationships in the house slowly unravelling, and the unreliable narrator, Nora, with her injuries causing amnesia. Everyone is under suspicion at one point or another.

My two negatives are: I found Nora intensely irritating, with her inability to ask questions or realise what was going on. I didn’t ever understand her motivation for going along to the hen weekend of someone she hadn’t spoken to for ten years.¬†¬†I also felt that it lacked proper creepiness. The ingredients were there,¬†the large glass-walled house which looks out onto the dark, snow-lit wood, an opportunity for voyeurism at it’s best, but it just fell a little short.

I would recommend this as a quick, easy read for holidays. It has one heck of a pace and engages you immediately.