Thursday, 30 October 2014
Review: The Fall by Bethany Griffin
Format: Trade paperback / eBook
Released: October 2nd, 2014
Madeline and her twin brother Roderick have the Usher name, the Usher house - and the Usher disease. Something is wrong with the family's blood - and it seems to have spread to the house itself. Sometimes Madeline even thinks that the house is alive... When Roderick is sent away to school, the house seems to want revenge on the one member of the Usher family left behind: Madeline herself.
The Fall was a complete surprise to me; I hadn't heard anything about it before it arrived in my post box for review. The eerie cover immediately caught my eye, and from that point on I knew it was my kind of book. I read it all in almost one sitting and wasn't even slightly disappointed, and it's all thanks to Bethany Griffin's brilliant writing and the overall tone of Madeline's story.
Upon doing a quick bit of research, I found that The Fall is a reimagining of Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher. I've since bought a book of his complete works in the hope of reading the original Usher story and seeing just where The Fall draws its inspiration from. Suffice it to say I was a complete Poe novice before reading this book, but I'm glad that's now changed because it seems I've been missing a gothic treat!
The Fall serves as a prequel to The Fall of the House of Usher, I think, and takes place when Madeline and her twin brother Roderick are growing up, culminating in their late teens. Something is wrong with the blood in the Usher family, and it seems Madeline has the illness too - she has fainting spells, she sees things and she firmly believes that the huge, imposing Usher house is alive. Roderick is less inclined to think this way, though he too notices strange goings on that can't simply be swept under the carpet.
Madeline and Roderick have an unusual relationship, very intricate and close, with an invisible line that could quite easily be crossed. I found them both weird and fascinating in equal measures, especially Madeline. She comes across as a girl slowly going mad, doomed to repeat the family curse, and blaming it all on bricks and mortar. I don't know what the original story points to, but this one didn't leave me with a feeling of madness. I actually believed what Madeline believed, and whether it's true or not I don't know. Something is wrong with the Usher house, though, and I'm sure it's as evil as Madeline suspects.
This book is so unsettling and creepy. One one or two occasions, while reading it late at night, I was reduced to listening for any floorboards creaking or shadows moving. Bethany Griffin uses foreshadowing as a successful narrative tool, as well as flitting from one time to another. The past makes the present easier to understand, as Madeline's life unravels and certain incidents become clearer. There's always an underlying sense of unease, which I absolutely loved, and the dark undertones make The Fall a perfect read for this time of year.
The Fall is a slow burner, ambling along with a portent of doom following in its footsteps. It gets under your skin in the best kind of way, and is a truly gothic tale that isn't easily forgotten. It's one of the biggest surprises of the year for me; I hope it gets the recognition it deserves, and that any Edgar Allan Poe enthusiasts appreciate what Bethany Griffin has done for the Usher story. Consider me impressed!