The Silent Companions
By Laura Purcell
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…
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I really enjoyed this book! It's not something I would ever have chosen to read, as I avoid anything that might be creepy or scary. But we read this for book club, and I'm now going round recommending it to everyone. The split timeline worked really well and the setting was so well formed and vivid. I found the whole book to be very readable, and as the tension built and secrets in the characters lives were revealed, I found I couldn't put it down. Although, I'd recommend not reading the end on your own late at night!
I enjoyed this book a lot. I'm not that into ghost stories, and I've struggled with a lot of the modern fiction I've read recently, so that didn't bode well. At first, I wondered if I was going to find the story a bit 'thin', but quite quickly the atmosphere of the book caught me. It builds quite subtly, and without a huge amount of flowery detail or description I could vividly imagine almost all the scenes (with the exception of those in the hospital, where I didn't have much of a sense of time). The silent companions are well-chosen as a sinister presence, and the two stories in different times meld together very well. An accomplished debut.
I'm not usually a fan of ghost stories, but this one had me completely gripped from the first chapter. The writing creates a claustrophobic atmosphere that makes you empathise with Elsie and her situation, whilst holding back enough detail to keep you guessing. The split timelines help to layer and build mystery within the narrative, with plenty of shocks along the way that made me gasp out loud. Compelling!
A really eerie and dark ghost story. Although it started a bit slowly, it really picked up the pace and I found that I couldn't put it down. I enjoyed the split timelines and the overwhelming feeling of being trapped in this haunted house -definitely scared myself a time or two whilst reading it. I normally only read modern day supernatural stories, so this setting (in 17th and 19th centuries) was really quite different for me, and it kept me guessing until the very end with some great twists.
What a brilliantly haunting book this is - a great nail-biting gothic thriller with great attention to period detail. Don't read alone late at night...