Updated: Mar 30, 2020
This book was creepy beyond measure. The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell is a Victorian gothic ghost story, set in 1880's England, will keep you on the edge of your seat. It centers around Elsie, whose husband of a few months unexpectedly passes away. Elsie finds herself widowed, pregnant, and shuffled to her husband's inherited homestead with his young cousin, Sarah. The house resembles something that came out of a horror movie and the town's residences are anything but welcoming. The house has barely been maintained by the staff and the rooms are in disrepair. The attic door is locked, and Elsie and Sarah become curious of what is behind it. At night, they hear strange noises coming from the room and one evening, the door mysteriously opens. Inside, they find old journals of the woman who lived in the house many years ago, as well as large wood cut outs that are painted like people. Elsie finds them strange, but Sarah thinks they are intriguing, so they bring them out to display in the house. These strange artifacts are called "silent companions" and were purchased by the former owner's wife as an oddity to impress the King and Queen of England who at one point visited the home. Elsie is suspicious of these "silent companions" and her suspicions are confirmed when strange things start to happen in the house and the companions are found in locations where they were not originally put.
This book is beyond creepy. It gave me The Haunting of Hill House vibes, where there is this strange house that may, or may not, be haunted. The story is told from alternating time periods, between the 1880's with Elsie and Sarah's story in the house, the current day where Elsie is in a psychiatric hospital, and the 1600's with Anne Bainbridge, the original owner of the house. Anne lived there with her family, including her daughter, Hetta, who was born mute. Anne drafted the diaries that Sarah and Elsie find in the attic and her story is told through her diary entries.
Is anything creepier than an old English house, set in the middle of nowhere, with creepy woodcut outs that look like people??!! Do not let this cover fool you, this book is incredible. I loved the Victorian gothic atmosphere and was drawn into the storyline almost immediately. Each chapter gives you a little more insight into what is happening and keeps you guessing until the very end. This book is not for the faint of heart. It includes murders, witchcraft, and ghosts and may be one that you want to read during the daytime...with all of the lights on.....
I loved Laura Purcell's unique writing style when I read The Poison Thread, so I was excited to read her first novel. The Silent Companions did not disappoint. I gave it ★★★★★ and recommend it to my reader friends that are fans of the thriller and horror genres. It will not be for everyone, but if you are the type that enjoys those types of books, I guarantee you will love this one.
Victorian gothic novels may be one of my new favorite genres!