Inspired by the work of Shirley Jackson and Susan Hill and set in a crumbling country mansion, The Silent Companions is an unsettling gothic ghost story to send a shiver down the spine…
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…
I really enjoyed reading The Silent Companions. It is a dark, Gothic ghost story that you definitely don’t want to read at night, especially if you are on your own. Or you could be brave and read by candlelight just to add to the atmosphere. And if you haven’t got anywhere to go on Halloween this book is perfect to keep you company.
At the beginning of the novel we are introduced to Elsie Bainbridge. Elsie is in a mental asylum and it is clear that she has recently suffered from a very traumatic experience. As she begins to recall the events which lead up to her incarceration in the asylum we begin to see a different character. As the novel turns back the clock we learn that Elsie is in mourning for her late husband Rupert and she is carrying his child. She has arrived at the family seat in Fayford known as The Bridge. It is a crumbling mansion which needs a little more work than a simple touch of TLC. As Elsie sets about exploring her new home with her late husband’s cousin, Sarah she comes across a stunning set of carvings which are known as Companions. They appear so lifelike that you could almost mistake them for real people. But it is when the Companions start to move that the novel takes a darker turn, is Elsie only imagining things or is there something much darker at work?
The Silent Companions was an absolutely terrifying and chilling read. The ending of this book really left me with chills. I really liked the setting of The Bridge, I have spent a lot of time visiting old, gothic mansions that are open to the public in the past and Laura Purcell captures the architecture and the somewhat gloominess of these buildings really well. I particularly liked her descriptions as Elsie set her eyes upon the house for the first time which set the tone of the story and as the reader you know instantly that you are in for a treat.
What I also liked about the book was the different timelines. When Elsie and Sarah make the discovery of the Companions, Sarah also discovers a set of journals belonging to her ancestor Annie Bainbridge who lived in the 1600s. At the time the diary extracts were written, Annie and her family are playing host to King Charles the first and his wife the Queen who Annie is particularly excited about. The diaries also have a particular relevance to what is happening in the present day.
An outstanding debut, Laura Purcell has crafted a haunting tale that will stay with you long after you have finished reading. I can’t wait to see what she does next. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy to read.
Publisher: Bloomsbury Raven
Publication date: 5th October 2017
Print length: 384 pages