The Fall, Bethany Griffin
Published October 7th 2014 by Greenwillow Books
Hardcover, 400 pages
Source: E-ARC from Edelweiss
Madeline Usher is doomed.
She has spent her life fighting fate, and she thought she was succeeding. Until she woke up in a coffin.
Ushers die young. Ushers are cursed. Ushers can never leave their house, a house that haunts and is haunted, a house that almost seems to have a mind of its own. Madeline’s life—revealed through short bursts of memory—has hinged around her desperate plan to escape, to save herself and her brother. Her only chance lies in destroying the house.
In the end, can Madeline keep her own sanity and bring the house down? The Fall is a literary psychological thriller, reimagining Edgar Allan Poe’s classic The Fall of the House of Usher.
I am still creeped out from reading this book! We begin when Madeline Usher wakes up in a coffin and Griffin leads the reader through Madeline’s history to understand how she ended up there. If you’ve read the Fall of the House of Usher you likely already know who put her in the coffin, but I had not so I was caught up from the very beginning in the mystery. The Usher family is cursed, the ancestral home itself is the curse or is part of the curse, I don’t think the Ushers themselves quite know. The house is terrifying and honestly the Ushers themselves are totally spooky. Madeline can feel when the house is pleased or unhappy and she knows as a child that she is a favorite of the house-this is not something you want. She tries to direct her thoughts to those that will keep the house happy with her-this just gives me shivers thinking about it. Can you imagine feeling so haunted in your own home?
The Fall has very short chapters that move both forward and backwards in time. “Madeline is 10,” then “Madeline is 18” and even though we flash back to Madeline’s childhood we’re always moving forward chronologically within the book. This was kind of frustrating at times, but because the action was always moving forward it wasn’t terribly confusing. The short chapters were good so you can read just a bit before you’re too freaked out to sleep! We see flashes of Madeline’s childhood with her twin brother Roderick and we see Roderick get to leave the house for school. The house does not like that at all. The house wants to keep all the family members close and basically make them crazy. Everything that starts out fresh and full of life becomes worn down by the house and infected with its darkness. This includes the clothes and furnishings they buy and the visitors to the home as well.
What I really appreciate was that Griffin was able to make the malevolence of the house come through without a lot of gore. Details like the furniture and floorboards rotting away or Madeline’s mother’s intolerance to sensation really made you feel the decay of the house and the family themselves. The most squeamish I felt was when I realized that the line of Ushers is really just a family of Ushers– there are no branches off this family tree. ICK. I was really glad that Madeline was determined to break the house’s will in this because I did not want to read that story.
I immediately checked The Fall of the House of Usher out from the library when I finished the Fall so that I could get the original vibe. So much creepiness! I think Griffin did an excellent job staying true to the spirit of the original, but The Fall is absolutely its own deliciously creepy book. Perfect reading for a crisp October night!
Thank you Greenwillow Books and edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!