Book Review: The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

9781408888094

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. But 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.

The book opens with the main character Elsie “Elizabeth” Bainbridge as an amnesiac, numb and mentally-tortured patient of an insane asylum. The doctor – a young new face highly enthusiastic about the prospect of helping Elsie return her memories reveals that she is suspected of arson and potentially murder. Elsie was severely injured in a fire, the incident also robbed her of her voice. Two people were registered to have died at the Bridge, the ancestral home of her late husband. Four bodies were later found in the mansion.  In an attempt to remember what happened, Elsie slowly begins to recount her tale in writing.

The narrative skips back and forth between the timeline of the ghost story, Elsie’s time at the asylum and the horrible events surrounding the King’s visit to the Bridge in the 1600s described in the diary of Anne Bainbridge, one of the ancestors of Elie’s husband 348943Rupert. As the popular story goes, ghosts are the souls of the people that met a violent end. One of the most original elements of the novel is the ghost are material things.  Elsie is forced to move to the Bridge after the death of her husband. Being a widow she had to spend some time in mourning away from London, especially considering the suspicious circumstances surrounding his death not long after their wedding.  Her husband’s relative Sarah is the only one to follow her to the country estate. The two women find a “Silent Companion” – a painting made of wood, fashioned in a way to look remarkably human. The Companion is made in the liking of Hetta, a girl mentioned in the diaries of Anne Bainbridge. Soon, Silent Companions begin popping up all around the mansion in strange circumstances and death begins to follow.

The Silent Companions would make a very intense Gothic horror thriller. Laura Purcell’s writing is beautiful, intense and brilliantly vivid.  I picked up the Silent Companions  on a particularly stressful day and I sure did not regret the hours spent on the creepy story that pulls you right in and does not let go.

 

 

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