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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2015 · commercial fiction · fiction · Penguin Random House UK · psychological thrillers · Uncategorized

The Girl On The Train review

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I have finally read this baby and now I know what all the hype is all about. Devoured within three days reading this going to and from work on the tube, The Girl On The Train will be one of those books that will happily join my never ending collection of books.

The Girl On The Train is about an alcoholic woman named Rachel who travels the same train journey every morning in to London. Like every morning, the train waits at the same signal upon where Rachel has a moment or two to look out at the houses. She notices the same house with the same couple living there, but one day, when Rachel sees something inconceivable she can’t help but get involved in the mystery.

I really liked the narrative structure, which switches from Rachel and Megan allowing us to understand the plot from the two women’s perspectives. The protagonist Rachel is a flawed character who is not particularly likeable, however, possessing a strong moral sense of doing the right thing, her perseverance and willingness to help is admirable, despite the ways in which she does so.

All the main characters were well developed and felt very much real to me. They would prance around in my mind and I’d often think about them when I was not reading – only a gripping book like Girl On The Train will have this affect on you.

The plot had lots of twists and turns, which inevitably kept me wanting to read more and more as I, like Rachel, also wanted to understand what had happened to Megan and how this had affected the other characters.

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My favourite part of the book is when we first hear of Megan’s voice through the narrative, where she explains the reasons why certain actions in her past were taken. Having not adjusted to the fact that Megan’s narrative is the lady that Rachel allocates a different name and life to is extremely satisfying when we finally understand what Paula Hawkins does there.

The ending was great too, Rachel telling us she has to get up early in the morning to catch the train, to me, was the perfect way to end.

I also think the idea behind the book was simple yet interesting. Paula Hawkins was once on a train when her train stopped at a signal and she looked out of her window to the houses nearby the tracks. She wondered what it would be like to write about every day situations and people, and voila, the idea was born.

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This was without a doubt a page-turner – a fantastic read and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is in to psychological thrillers.