Published: October 5th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Ghost Story, Horror
I read this book at the start of 2019 and I have not got around to posting it until now as it took a long time to do the book justice and then have the space in my calendar to post this.
The Silent Companions was one of my favourite books of not just 2019, but the decade too.
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 only has 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 figures 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.
“There is something about these things. Something wrong.”
Eerie, atmospheric, terrifying and astounding, this magnificent debut instantly became one of my favourite books ever. But despite how amazing as this book was, I have been at a loss as to how to write this review, and it’s taken months, so I’m thrilled to finally be sharing it.
This book more than lived up to the hype. I was so transfixed that I devoured it, my head full of questions that I needed the answer to. Laura Purcell is a masterful storyteller and exceptional talent. It’s a little unnerving the kind of horror that lies inside her mind.
I loved the characters in this book such as vacant and naive Sarah, impertinent Mabel, haughty Edna, kind and well-meaning Dr Shepherd, and self-conscious, tempered and scared Elsie. Both Sarah and Elsie grow whilst at The Bridge but it is Elsie in particular who we see the biggest changes in over the course of the book. When we meet the youngest version of Elsie she is newly widowed in a strange house so she’s unsure of herself and feeling lost. But as time goes on she finds more confidence and we see a strong and determined woman emerge. In the asylum she is terrified and simply surviving each day any way she can. It was a heartbreaking decline of a character I became particularly fond of. It also meant never knew what to believe – was Elsie was imagining things or were they actually happening? It seemed the further I got into the story, the more questions and uncertainty I had.
I did not expect this book to be so chilling and have never been so unnerved by a book. I would vacillate between being so captivated I didn’t want to sleep and then being so terrified that I didn’t dare try. There was an eerie atmosphere at The Bridge in particular. It was like there was a sinister infestation that lingered, echoed in the night, and played tricks on those who lived there. There were numerous times I felt like my heart was pounding out of my chest and I had to take a break. As for the companions, they may have been wooden, but they felt anything but lifeless and there was a sinister malevolence to them that sent shivers down my spine. While I had my theories about who or what the companions were and how it might end, I could never have guessed the breathtaking finale and shocking surprises the author had in store.
The Silent Companions is an unforgettable and deliciously creepy novel about family, secrets, suspicion, tragedy and terror. If you love well-written books, gothic fiction, and don’t mind being scared witless, then you should read this book. Just make sure you read it with the lights on.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Her first novel for Raven Books The Silent Companions won the WHSmith Thumping Good Read Award 2018 and featured in both the Zoe Ball and Radio 2 Book Clubs. Other Gothic novels include The Corset (US title The Poison Thread), Bone China and The Shape of Darkness (2020),