The Fall, as the description says, is a retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. I’m not very familiar with that specific Poe story. The only Poe works I’ve read are The Raven and The Tell-Tale Heart. So I didn’t know much going into The Fall. However, I think that was a good thing because The Fall was unlike anything I’ve ever read before.
The Fall jumps around in chronology but is narrated by Madeline Usher with occasionally a few journal excerpts from a prior ancestor, Lisbeth Usher. The jumps in chronology help to keep the reader a little confused about what is really going on in this house and family. Essentially what we have is a cursed family. The entire Usher line is cursed, but there does seem to be a particular affliction for the female members of the line. Madeline has always been able to “hear” the house. She knows that it has its own consciousness. Madeline’s twin brother, Roderick, is terribly afraid of the house as a child, but he has never been as attuned to it as Madeline. When Roderick is sent away to school, he steadily leans on logic and distances himself from the house and the terrors he faced while living there. Because Madeline is so attuned to the house—as a matter of fact, she is the house’s favorite—Roderick in turn distances himself from Madeline as well. He refuses to believe. Madeline starts out believing that he house is protecting her, but over the years she learns to see the house for what it really is and it’s true intentions. It thrives on chaos, confusion, fear, and grief.
I felt so bad for Madeline. Her mother favors Roderick, but her father has a particular fondness for her—when he’s lucid. Eventually both parents die, Roderick lives at school and his visits become less and less frequent and the duration of each visit becomes shorter and shorter. The servants seem to think the curse is related to Madeline herself rather than the house. And the two doctors and the doctor’s apprentice who also live in the House of Usher offer no comfort or support. They poke and prod her with needles, studying her Usher blood, and chronicling her behavior. But she’s so utterly alone. And not just alone, but constantly living in fear.
Bethany Griffin’s writing style fit this story just perfectly. It wasn’t a style that blew me away with its beauty, but it was free-flowing, smooth, and fitting. Her writing had the appropriate amount of creepy, thrill, and mystery in keeping with an Edgar Allen Poe retelling for sure. I don’t know that The Fall could have been better or more suitably written.
My favorite quotes:
-Except, in this house, the secrets hide behind secrets, and tight places like this hole in the earth make my stomach clench with fear.
-The house rewards cruelty. It loves darkness and despair and death. And I am its favorite.
-He’s horrified by this place, by the things he cannot explain. And yet he leaves me here. At this thought, he turns, his eyes wide and surprised. He’s sensed my resentment, through the bond we share, but he won’t acknowledge it. He can’t, not when he’s already thinking of leaving.
-I blink over and over, holding back tears. My fingers come away from my cheek stained with blood. The house hurt me. My legs give out, and I collapse to the floor in a heap of skirts and anxiety. The planks of the floor grow unnaturally warm. I place my hands in my lap. I should have listened to Mother. The house was not trying to hurt me. No. It’s so big, it lacks finesse. It wants me to stay close, so it can protect me. I sit completely still, showing the house that I do not plan to leave it, not now, not ever. The blade of the ax quivers back and forth. I do not move. I sit, watching the ax. Letting the house know that I trust it.
-“The house is seductive,” Father says. “It reads our deepest desires.” But if that’s true, then why was Roderick sent away? Father laughs softly, still mixing the paint. “It doesn’t always give us our desires, Madeline,” he says, as though I asked the question aloud. Did I?
-He has been waiting; I’ve seen it in his demeanor. I understand waiting. But what he’s been waiting for isn’t me. He’s falling in love with the house. “I wish you’d come before,” I say. When I still trusted the house. Because I can never trust it now, and while he’s in its thrall, I can never trust him.
-There is safety in being cursed.
-”The house is speaking to you, isn’t it?” he asks. “Saying that it loves you most of all.” Is there jealousy in his voice?
-“The spirit of the house—the consciousness of it—gets inside our heads. It sees through our eyes and feels what we feel, especially moments of extreme emotion, moments of passion. Or grief. It loves grief.”
-There is no point loving the one who is cursed, is there?
-I have what I wanted. It is bitter.
The Fall was definitely a creepy read in keeping with what I know of Edgar Allen Poe. Since I’m not familiar with Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, I can’t tell you how accurate or true of a retelling The Fall is, but I can tell you that I enjoyed it immensely. It felt like the perfect Halloween type of read, perfect for this time of year. I struggled a bit with the ending. I don’t know how true to the original ending The Fall is, but it left me wondering what the point of the story was—other than just a super weird and interesting story. I’m still giving The Fall 4 stars. Have you read The Fall? What did you think? Let me know!
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