The Corset by Laura Purcell


One of the books I received in the November crime and mystery box from My Chronicle Book Box was The Corset by Laura Purcell. The Corset is Purcell’s second novel, following on from The Silent Companions which is a book I have had my eye on for a while. So I was excited to get a copy of her latest book, and couldn’t wait to start reading it!

I often enjoy historical fiction with several historical novels amongst my favourite books of all time. So I was intrigued by The Corset which is a historical, gothic thriller set in the Victorian era. Here we meet two women from very different walks of life, and see the tragic and sinister events which result in their lives becoming intertwined. Dorothea is wealthy and beautiful, whilst teenage seamstress Ruth is poor, and following a shocking and harrowing series of events, finds herself imprisoned and awaiting trial for murder. And it is through Dorothea’s charitable work that she meets Ruth in prison, and finds herself captivated by this young girl who claims to have committed the most hideous of crimes. This story was captivating from the offset with Dorothea’s fascination with phrenology coming to use as she wishes to analyse Ruth to see if her skull can shed any light on the dark events. This is enhanced with a supernatural element, as Ruth is adamant that she has been able to kill people through her sewing, and the hatred that runs through her stitches, which adds further layers to this dark tale.

From the opening pages I was gripped by this story, and quickly became immersed in Ruth’s dark world. The Victorian era is well depicted through Purcell’s vivid writing, which captures the challenges faced by both women during this era, in all their grim detail. The story alternates between the perspectives of Ruth and Dorothea as their own stories unfold, with the sections narrated by Ruth making for particularly harrowing reading. We learn that life for Ruth has always been a challenge, with her family’s financial struggles being only the start of a tragic series of events that spiral further out of control once she finds herself working for an unfavourable employer. And whilst the content of this story is often dark and Gothic, I couldn’t take my eyes away from the page, and was gripped through to the end. It is a story of two young women and the fights they face in life. It is also a story of life and death, and of betrayal and revenge, as Dorothea finds herself challenged by Ruth’s remarkable tale, as she and the reader are left to question what is real, and who can be trusted.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Corset and found it to be a bleak and beautifully written thriller which had me hooked. I will definitely be picking up a copy of Laura Purcell’s debut novel, The Silent Companions, and am very much looking forward to reading more of her work.

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