Curl Up With a Gothic Ghost Story - The Silent Companions
I'll admit upfront that when I began this book I didn't realize it was a horror book - on the lighter side of horror but it still spooked me! I must not have read the description closely enough and then shortly after reading, mysterious and creepy things begin to happen. Though I didn't fully grasp what genre this book fell into, initially, I was pleasantly surprised by it!
Laura Purcell's The Silent Companions opens with our protagonist in an insane asylum in the 1860s. Clearly something horrible has happen to Elsie and throughout the book we slowly learn what happen at The Bridge. After the death of her husband, Elsie Bainbridge is sent her husband's estate for a year of mourning away from London society and to have her child. However, her reception by the villagers is hostile, the estate in disarray after years of neglect, and Elsie's only source of company is her husband meek cousin Sarah.
Per Gothic ghost story conventions, there's a locked room in the house that no one has entered in years. Strange sounds echo behind the door and Elsie quickly discovers a wooden figure painted in a life-like fashion and strangely resembling herself... I won't elaborate more on the story except to say weird happenings begin shortly after the discovery of this figure!
I am by no means a horror aficionado. I don't watch horror films and I've hardly read horror books, besides some classics. So can't give you a good comparison of the writing or plot to other modern horror writers. That being said I loved this book! I thought it had a wonderful atmospheric quality as any Gothic horror should. I found the main character, Elsie, initially unlikable but as you learn more about her and you see her mentally unraveling she becomes a sympathetic character. Moreover, the Purcell left me questioning whether Elsie is a reliable narrator or not. I was hooked throughout the book and read this over the course of a few days.
A note on the Penguin Books listing, the Penguin website has the book list as "Historical Fiction" and "Historical Romance" - don't let that fool you! This book does not feature any romance other than the allusion to Elsie's short lived marriage. Also, the supernatural part of the story adds shifts it away from just your average Historical Fiction book.
Additionally, it looks like Purcell has another book coming out later this year called The Corset, which will be out in the UK via Bloomsbury. Hopefully, the US release will be shortly after. There doesn't seem to be any details out about it yet but I will definitely keep my eye out for more.
I would recommend this for anyone looking for a Victorian era ghost story to give you a few chills and keep you hooked.