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 the first to rave about my love for Bethany Griffin’s first book, Masque of the Red Death, which was a retelling of the short story by the same name. I hadn’t read the second one – own it, but haven’t read it – but knowing how well she did the gothic atmospheric thing in Masque, I was convinced that The Fall – a retelling of The Fall of the House of Usher – would be in the same vein. And I guess in a way it was; just like she did with Masque, the strength of this book came from her descriptions of the desolate land surrounding the crumbling and creepy House of Usher and the broken down shabbiness of the house itself. Unfortunately, that’s really all The Fall had going for it; I was pretty much disappointed in nearly every single other aspect from beginning to end.
First off, this book is told in a rather meandering, non-linear way. The chapters jump in time, starting when Madeline is eighteen and wakes up buried alive in a sarcophagus. Then we have snapshots of her life when she’s twelve, thirteen, seventeen, fourteen, sixteen, ten, etc. Throughout it all is her overwhelming sense of loneliness – her twin brother, Roderick, has been sent away to school in the hopes that this will help him not fall victim to the Usher family curse – and she really doesn’t DO a whole lot aside from poke around in her garden and go to see the doctors who live in her house’s tower. Honestly, this humdrum existence got a bit boring after a while, which doesn’t bode well for a book with 171 chapters. Yes, they’re short – and actually they read fairly quickly – but there were just so many of them and nothing ever seemed to actually be happening. It got monotonous and boring after a while, which is why it took me so long to finish the book. It just didn’t have the excitement necessary to call me back to its pages.
I did find the idea of a girl getting fed stories about her ancestors via the House (and yes, I’m capitalizing it, because it’s pretty much its own sentient being) intriguing, as well as the symptoms the family curse wrought not only on Madeline but her parents as well. I liked the journal entries of Lisbeth, which helped to prove that there really was something very wrong with the house and its inhabitants, and I liked Madeline’s spirit and strength (eventually, she doesn’t start out terribly strong-willed) as she tried to figure out a way for her to escape the House’s clutches. And yes, there was some fabulously creepy imagery – the knight that keeps loosing its battle ax at unsuspecting people climbing a certain staircase, the paintings that change, the way new things turn old overnight – but it honestly wasn’t enough to keep me gripped in the story. And the weird ending didn’t help, either; I’m still not sure what actually happened there.
However, I actually seem to be in the minority when it comes to opinions about this book, so. I tagged this book as “horror” but it’s really not; just more overall creepy and odd. Still, if you’re intrigued, I say give it a read. Maybe you’ll have better luck than I did with it!