Review of The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
This is a spooky, atmospheric, gothic Victorian ghost story perfect for the season.
Elsie thought she had married out of her hardworking life and into a life of wealth and leisure. But when her kind husband passes away suddenly just after the wedding, pregnant Elsie and her tedious cousin-in-law Sarah must head from London to the family's neglected country estate, The Bridge, to bury him and set the house to rights.
Behind a door without a key--a door that is sometimes locked and other times mysteriously not--a "silent companion" (a realistic, freestanding painted wooden figure) sits eerily, as though waiting. Impossibly, the centuries-old figure bears a shocking resemblance to Elsie.
Mysterious noises, inexplicable goings-on, the appearance of additional silent companions, haunting stories of the past, and the superstitious hatred of the village folk for the family make Elsie begin to believe something is not right at The Bridge--and that maybe her husband's death wasn't natural at all.
In the mid-1600s, the family living in The Bridge is readying for a royal visit, but there seems to be something dark at work--and immense power that's spiraling out of the control of those who first wielded it. In the book's 1865 timeline, our main protagonist has recently been placed in a mental institution, trying to piece together what is real and what is imagined--with the help of a modern-thinking young doctor who's determined to help her. Horrors from her childhood are alluded to and contribute to her fear, her reluctance to trust, and her doubts about what is fact and what is fiction. Then everything in this good old Victorian ghost story kicks up ten notches to become even more spooky.
Purcell takes us through the disturbing events surrounding one family living two hundred years apart in the same house, making you wonder how reliable any of our main protagonists are. (And there's a twist and a double twist I loved.)
What did you think?
Purcell has also written other gothic novels I'd like to read: The Poison Thread, Bone China, and her newest, The Shape of Darkness.
I first mentioned this book in the Greedy Reading List Three Books I'm Reading Now, 9/22/20 Edition.