I probably should have waited until the paper-back came out before I read this, having read The Corset by Laura Purcell this year already, but I read it anyway.
Amazon puts I better than I can :
Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft's family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken.
But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home.
Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralysed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last.
I enjoyed this book very much but it wasn't as good as previous novels by Purcell, there just seemed to be something missing. I did not like the bitsy aspect of the novel at all, she starts of with the maid Hester Why and then, around halfway through, goes back forty years and explains Miss Pinecroft's experiences. I guessed some of it near the end and that never bodes well.
That said, I enjoyed the book enough to keep reading until the end and it's well written by Purcell, just not as good as her previous novel. I still recommend it, though.
More Victorian Gothic from Laura Purcell. This is a very clever story about a young girl and her life and about another slightly older girl (she's 24) and her life. The chapters alternate from one main character to another. The younger girl is a seamstress and has a very difficult life, the other is a lady of leisure and adopts her mother's religion and charitable works. The older woman meets the younger one while the younger one is in jail, at the age of sixteen, and the younger one tells her story. The older one finds it difficult to believe but also finds it fascinating so keeps visiting. The older one also incurs her father's displeasure by studying phrenology which was popular amongst the Victorians, I believe.
Loved this story, it has more bite to it than The Silent Companions (one of Purcell's other books) and the twist at the end was not what I anticipated. The prose is good, the characters rounded and the story believable. There are descriptions of physical cruelty in this book that should be noted if the reader isn't keen on that but other than that I highly recommend this.
I do love my Victorian Gothic novels and this was a good one. It's a ghost story and the silent companions of the title are wooden stands, with pictures of people painted on them, much like those one would use to put in front of an open fire-place when not in use.
The story is well paced, the characters are well formed and the prose is good. I found myself getting more and more interested as the book progressed. It toggles in time between the 16th century and the 19th century with some chapters taking place in a Victorian asylum and is also the history of a family.
I thought of Stephen King when I read this, at least once, but this is a lot less horrific and is more of a gentle ghost story that downright absolute horror.
I'd recommend this.