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? (goodreads.com)
I’m kind of ambivalent about THE FALL. On the one hand it was excellently moody and set a great scene, but on the other the Usher curse isn’t really explained and this “madness” isn’t really madness and it’s all just there and as a reader we’re supposed to be spooked by it and I’m not.
I think the concept is a neat idea, that a house is sentient and somehow tied to the DNA of the Ushers. It calls to them and effectively forces them to do its bidding (mainly procreating, I guess, so it can have more Ushers to torture). But I think Griffin’s intent was to blur the line between reality and illusion more and it just didn’t work. I think as a reader I’m supposed to question Madeline as a reliable narrator and how much of what she’s seeing is real and isn’t and how much is self-fulfilling prophecy but I never doubted for a second. I mean, it works out in the end because it’s all still kind of creepy. But that “is it or isn’t it” isn’t there like I think it was meant to be.
I do like the idea of a sentient house, but there also seems to be a lot of inbreeding going on here and there’s supposed to be a creature in the tarn and I’m not sure what that’s all about. I mean really this book is all over the place for me in terms of actual story. Because it’s a house that “chooses” an heir and it wants Madeline to live and beget to bring it more Ushers but at the same time it tries to kill her and punishes her for doing things it doesn’t like. Seems rather contradictory.
I don’t know. THE FALL is definitely a moody book and if you’re looking for something to read on a gloomy, chilly, autumn night I think THE FALL will fit that bill nicely. But in terms of plot . . . eh. It leaves too many things hanging open, there are too many elements that seem to be there simply for shock value and don’t really serve any real purpose, and I’m not compelled by Madeline’s voice enough to really care about any of it. It’s been a long time since I’ve read The Fall of the House of Usher, but I imagine you’d be better off just reading the original. Not sure what THE FALL really contributes to the story at all.