Madeline Usher has been buried alive. The doomed heroine comes to the fore in this eerie reimagining of Edgar Allan Poe's classic short story "The Fall of the House of Usher." Gothic, moody, and suspenseful from beginning to end, The Fall is literary horror for fans of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and Asylum. Madeline awakes in a coffin. She was put there by her own twin brother. How did it come to this? In short non-chronological chapters, Bethany Griffin masterfully spins a haunting and powerful tale of a tragic heroine and the curse on the Usher family. The house itself is alive around Madeline, and it will never let her escape, driving her to the madness just as it has all of her ancestors. But she won't let it have her brother Roderick. She'll do everything in her power to save him—and try to save herself—even if it means bringing the house down around them. With a sinister gothic atmosphere and relentless tension to rival Poe himself, Bethany Griffin creates a house of horrors and introduces a whole new point-of-view on the timeless classic.
What worked: Griffin once again weaves magic in her retelling of a Poe novel. This novel starts off with a horrific scene and then goes back and forth in time, showing young Madeline Usher and what leads up to her being buried alive. Madeline's family has been cursed for generations. Readers see how the house slowly drives the Ushers insane or worse. Madeline's twin Roderick is sent away by their mother in an attempt for him to escape the grisly fates of the rest of the family. We see Madeline as a young girl, before the madness hits, and then later when she makes a choice to destroy the hold the house has over all of them.
I loved this book! Creepy images of life inside the Usher mansion come to life whenever Madeline is inside. Secrets, ghosts, and creepy inhabitants pulse within the house. The curse has a tight hold on all of the Ushers, including Madeline. Her struggles, conflicts, and even fears drive her to question what is happening. There are times when she finds hope in a pet(how she finds Cassandra is creepy), a new doctor, and even her own brother. She longs for the love of her bitter mother who admits she loves Roderick more. Madeline might seem frail and invisible but inside pumps strength and courage she'll need to fight against the house.
The house is a major character in this novel. It breathes life and also shows it's displeasure when Madeline or the other Ushers try to take control. There are some real creepy scenes which include a armored knight throwing a knife at Madeline when she tries to escape. Also the newer doctor is beyond creepy. His obsession with the Ushers and with Madeline gave me the shivers.
Fast-paced action had me turning the pages, not wanting to stop until I found out the fate of Madeline and her twin. There's hints of other grisly things that go on inside the Usher house. Madness is shown throughout and you can't help but shiver more than a few times.
A great retellling of Poe's THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER that will please not only fans of Griffin but those who love a good, creepy tale.
Growing up, Madeline assumed that the house loved her and was protecting her but as she grew older, she understands that the house is evil, possessive, and jealous. Told in a narrative that jumps around in the time, but is in no way confusing, the tidbits of family history and Madeline's own experiences within the house keep the reader in suspense and urge you to keep reading because WHAT IS GOING ON?! Bethany drops info as we need it, not necessarily as we want it.
I took an immediate liking to Madeline and I love seeing how her reaction to the house changed as she got older and began to understand the house's motives. She is bound and determined to get her family, especially her twin brother Roderick, away from the house and keep her distance from the doctors that have taken residence in the house to study the family's illness. Her parents end up sending Roderick away to school and although she wishes she could go to school as well, she knows the house would never allow her to leave. She is, as her father informed her, the house's favorite.
While there were moments when the plot seemed to drag slightly, these moments just added to the suspense of the novel. The Fall is a creepy book. There where times when, I kid you not, I thought the house was watching me.
If you're looking for that Halloween read that's wonderfully/creepily written, an interesting plot with a unique narrative that keeps you guessing at every turn, and an engaging main character attempting to escape her family curse, you'll definitely enjoy The Fall. Just maybe try not to talk negatively about the house, it never ends well for those that do.