The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell


Laura Purcell’s second novel, The Corset, was one of my favourite books of 2018 so I was keen to read her debut novel, The Silent Companions, which promised to be another dark, historical novel…

The Silent Companions features many elements which I enjoy in historical fiction with events surrounding a grand if somewhat decrepit country estate and the wealth of secrets that lurk within its crumbling walls. Here we meet a young woman named Elsie, who having recently been widowed, is moving to her late husband’s country estate where she will give birth to her child. However, her new life at The Bridge does not get off to a good start with her staff and local villagers being equally unwelcoming and suspicious of Elsie. As a result it seems she only has her husband’s cousin to keep her company, as she adjusts to life in The Bridge. But it soon becomes apparent that not everything here is as it seems, and Elsie finds herself in a strange home in which stranger things begin to happen. She is haunted by unexplained noises, not to mention the creepy wooden ‘companion’ that bears an uncanny resemblance to her…

I was gripped by this story from the opening pages, in which I quickly became immersed in the dark, gothic world Purcell has created. The story alternates between two timelines, one taking place in the 1860’s in which Elsie moves into The Bridge and another, in the 1630’s  through which we are introduced to the life of Anne Bainbridge, an ancestor whose diary entries Elsie uncovers. Their two stories are interwoven to build up a picture of the sinister goings on in the house, and we also visit Elsie in hospital as she recovers from injury, as doctors try to get to the bottom of the events that unfold over the course of this story. I thought the plot was perfectly paced, with a building sense of foreboding throughout as more secrets are uncovered, and horrific events spiral further out of control. The imagery is vivid, and there is definitely a chilling atmosphere created which had me hooked, and I finished reading this in one day in just a couple of sittings. Laura Purcell has crafted a gripping and unsettling story which makes the reader question what is real, as the sinister wooden companions remain a constant, unwelcome presence in Elsie’s new home, a home which has been no stranger to tragedy.

I really enjoyed The Silent Companions and thought it was a well written spooky story which explores a complex family history filled with secrets and ghostly occurrences which made for a compelling and unsettling read. Having loved both of her books I am looking forward to reading more of Laura Purcell’s work.

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