by Laura Purcell
Genres: Historical, Suspense, Horror
When newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband's crumbling country estate, The Bridge, what greets her is far from the life of wealth and privilege she was expecting . . .
When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But with her husband dead just weeks after their marriage, her new servants resentful, and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her husband's awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure--a silent companion--that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of The Bridge are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition--that is, until she notices the figure's eyes following her.
A Victorian ghost story that evokes a most unsettling kind of fear, this is a tale that creeps its way through the consciousness in ways you least expect--much like the silent companions themselves.
Please welcome Sophia Rose as she shares her thoughts on The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell. This historical suspense laced with horror sounds perfect for a late night read!
Unbound Worlds selected this title in their post, “21 of the Best Horror Books by Women”
Sophia Rose’s Review
An atmospheric, gothic horror set in Victorian times that did a fabulous job with the chills and thrills.
The Silent Companions begins in the late 1860s the dank cell of an insane asylum with a new doctor trying to get his patient to tell him her story. She has been drugged out of her mind after many of those horrid treatments that mental patients were given back then and she’s mute. The asylum is actually safer and more peaceful to her than what she has lived through, she admits to herself in the opening pages and the rest of the story unveils just why that is.
From there, the story progresses through timelines. Elsie Bainbridge is asked by the doctor to journal the events at The Bridge so this is the story that begins when she is left widowed in 1865. Then, during the disturbing events going on at The Bridge, Elsie and her husband’s cousin Sara discover some old journals in the garret and discover they shed light on the inexplicable stuff happening in their present. The journals belong to a long-dead ancestress Anne Bainbridge in 1633. Anne was burned as a witch.
This might seem like it can get tangled up with those timelines going on, but it didn’t really. I enjoyed how the author would advance each timeline to a, particularly thrilling point only to switch. Plus, there were parallels that showed how the distant past and the present were connected and it was all very ominous. I was vested in each storyline equally.
I hesitate to put it this way since there is murder, dark secrets, and horror going on, but I really enjoyed this book even to the end when I was left gaping and so many questions whirring around in my mind. The reader is given what happened, but the deeper hows and sometimes whys are left to the imagination. Speaking of imagination, this story is told where setting, symbols of the usual gothic style, traits of the characters, and writing style really let the reader’s imagination run a little wild- a good thing, in case you were wondering. We scare ourselves sometimes better than the actual writing can.
As to the characters, they are not easy or light. There is a lot of dark past history or at the very least deprivation and misery for all of them. Servants out of workhouses, lonely housekeeper sent away to a brooding empty house. Destitute villagers and vicar. An impoverished member of the Bainbridge family forced to be the poor companion. Anne, in the past, whose one misguided choice wrought so much wrong afterward. And then, Elsie, growing up in an abusive situation (and I have my suspicions, though the story doesn’t outright say, that the abuse might be more- something heinous), parents’ deaths, husband’s death, and then true horror took her life. They have their flaws and weaknesses. Some of it was a result of their situations and the manners and customs of the times like Elsie being gruff with the servants because she felt defensive about not being ‘quality’ and the servants knowing this or when her brother waves off her true fears as just a weak woman with hysteria after all the deaths she has experienced.
The historical side of this was authentic with its feeling of Victorian (and Stuart era in Anne’s part) norms with the way women, treatment of the insane, superstition, children, class, and inheritance were handled. Elsie is twelve years her brother’s senior and she raised him, but yet, he legally can make decisions for her when he comes of age and he also takes the prevailing attitude of the times that his sister is experiencing melancholia and hysteria because she can’t handle hardship and grief so needs ‘treatment’ which was drugs and possible stint in an asylum.
As to the gothic horror aspect, oh man, was that impressive and creative. It wasn’t cheesy or a mockery of this type of story but was indeed a well-written gothic that has a classic feel to it. I loved the use of real art history artifacts, the Silent Companions, to drive the story. Until near the end, the author lets the reader wonder if Elsie is mad, calculating, or is it all real.
So, The Silent Companions was deliciously frightening without going too far for my sensibility to horror. It left me thinking about it long afterward and pondering some of the parts that were left barely or unexplained. Those who love old-style gothic horror are in for a treat.The Silent Companions by Laurel Purcell was deliciously frightening without going too far for Sophia Rose's sensibility to horror. Those who love old-style gothic horror are in for a treat. #mustread Click To Tweet
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