Title: The Fall
Author: Bethany Griffin
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.
The Fall was one of those books I picked up on a whim. Even before reading the blurb, I knew it’d be horror-filled and possibly alluding to Edgar Allen Poe’s work – I wasn’t disappointed. Horror isn’t my usual genre when it comes to books, but I’m glad I gave this one a chance. Not only is it outside my genre, but the story-telling style is completely different from what I’m used to reading. It was definitely a fun, refreshing change of pace.
The story follows Madeline Usher, a girl cursed by her bloodline and the house she lives in, and is told from her perspective through snippets of memory that hop all over her lifetime – from the time she’s nine years old until she’s nineteen. This was the first time I read a book that had a non-linear story, and at first it was a bit jarring. There’s no real start or stopping point to the story, if that makes sense, since the curse and Madeline’s struggle is something she’s dealt with her whole life. Living in the Usher house is her every day life, and only some moments stood out as exceptional – those are the ones that make up this story. We get moments she spent with her parents, an emotionally abusive mother and distant father, and her twin brother, Roderick. Through Madeline’s memories with them, we see that she’s always been alone. Her mother favors her brother, and tries to save him from the curse by sending him away to school, leaving Madeline even more dejected and lonely. As a character, Madeline is pretty easy to relate to, and believable. Maybe it’s because, as readers, we’re the only ones who actually spend any time with her and see what she sees. Sometimes I just wanted to give the poor girl a hug.
While a bit confusing, I think the way the author tells the story is a great way to convey Madeline’s feelings of disorientation and helplessness in her own life. As she slowly starts to fight the house’s will and gains control of her situation, or tries to, the story moves forward in a more linear way. She struggles to piece together the mystery of the house, and the reader struggles right along with her, so that any revelation or discovery happens at the same time for both us and Madeline. Griffin does an excellent job of painting a beautiful, horror-filled picture, as well. Her descriptions of Madeline’s surroundings and experiences, not to mention the host of doctors that study the family “illness,” made me uncomfortable – and that’s not an easy thing to do with writing. Even the small moments of happiness and hope Madeline experiences only serve to highlight the horror that is her life. It’s not often a book genuinely upsets me, and The Fall did that in the best way.
The only reason I docked a star was because the story moved pretty slowly at times – probably a byproduct of the non-linear structure. Early on it was pretty easy to put the book down, but once you get into the rhythm of how Madeline’s memories are spread out, it’s smooth sailing.
All in all, this was a fun read and I’m probably going to pick up Griffin’s other works. Definitely a must read for fans of horror and/or Edgar Allen Poe!