2017 · Bloomsbury · historical novel · literary thriller · October

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell Book Review

TheSilentCompanions

Inspired by the work of Shirley Jackson and Susan Hill and set in a crumbling country mansion, The Silent Companions is an unsettling gothic ghost story to send a shiver down the spine…

Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge.

With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. For inside her new home lies a locked room, and beyond that door lies a two-hundred-year-old diary and a deeply unsettling painted wooden figure – a Silent Companion – that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself…

This book was given to me as a gift from a friend of mine. At first glance, I loved the detail of the cover. I thought it was eye-catching and I also liked the keyhole that showed just the eye. It gave me a hint that this is possibly about unearthing secrets, but that was just an initial response to the cover. I think good covers will make a reader think before reading a book and will also package the book in a beautiful, eye-catching way to entice readers to read. The cover of this book did indeed draw me in.

I must say, it did take me a while to get into the book as I felt the beginning chapters, though they were setting the scene, seemed to drag on a bit and I was hoping for a more faster pace in plot progression. I’m glad I kept reading on as I was taken into a whole new world within the the Bridge (this is the estate whereby Elsie’s late husband lived), which is spooky as ever, filled with years and years of deep, rich, dark, history and secrets of the supernatural world.

The novel heavily focuses on Elsie in a three-part narrative structure; following her journey during her time at The Bridge and much later when she is in an asylum being asked by a doctor to recall her memories of her time there. I’ve not read many ghosts stories so I do find it difficult to compare this book to others, but I will say that the plot was well developed and was written beautifully. We get a real sense of Elsie’s character, her fears and later why she comes across as mad to the workers in the asylum. The plot allows for the 17th century history of the house and Elsie’s husband’s family to unfold at the right time when it is needed for the reader to fully understand what is going on, which I thought was also well-executed.

The house, which majority of the plot is set in, is one of the most important elements of gothic literature and I feel, Laura nailed this. It is a crumbling, old, dark and mysterious setting, which has it’s own personality and is crucial to the development of the plot. Every dark and foggy corner adds to the spooky atmosphere, which is felt throughout the narrative.

The silent companions are integral, if not the most important, characters within the book. I wouldn’t say I particularly liked any of the characters, as they all seem to have a darker side to them, which eventually becomes revealed. But with any traditional gothic tale, it’s more plot driven and readers want to know what will happen next. They’re expected to have a spooky ending, which this book definitely has and one that I was not expecting.

I liked the book but was not madly in love with it. Nevertheless, I do look forward to Laura’s second book, which will be out next year.

The Silent Companions is Laura’s debut, which was published by Raven Books in October 2017.

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