Book Review: The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Name:  The Silent Companions
Author:  
Laura Purcell
Number of Pages:
  384 (Hardback)
Published:
October 5th 2017 by Raven Books
Genre:  Gothic, Historical, Horror

Goodreads

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..     – from Goodreads

My Rating:

 

My Thoughts:

The Silent Companions is gothic, ghostly, atmospheric and creepy.
What begins as a tragic tale – a newly-married, pregnant and newly-widowed woman, Elsie Bainbridge is through circumstances sent to The Bridge, the old country estate belonging to her late husband – soon takes a sinister turn as Elsie, disturbed from sleep by strange noises in the night, finds her way to the garret, a part of the house that has been sealed off for years.
In this forgotten dusty place Elsie, and Sarah, Elsie’s companion and cousin to her late husband, discover old diaries, and a painted wooden figure that looks strikingly like Elsie herself.
At this point I would have been so unnerved that I’d have closed that door once and for all, but of course then there would be no story.
The figure, known as a silent companion, is relocated into the main house, along with the diaries, which Sarah wants to read as they belong to her ancestor Anne Bainbridge, a previous occupant of The Bridge.

As if her circumstances weren’t bad enough, having lost her husband, Elsie is confronted by a neglected property of which the locals are fearful and suspicious. Rumour and speculation abound, and no one wants to work at The Bridge amidst tales of skeletons discovered in the grounds and mysterious deaths amongst previous workers.

The tale is told through three narratives.
We first meet Elsie as her recovers from burns in an asylum. She is disfigured and mute, suspected of murder and may stand trial for her supposed crimes. It is the kindly Dr Shepherd who encourages her to recount her story through writing, telling of events that led up to the fire.
There’s also Elsie’s coming to live at The Bridge in 1865 with Sarah Bainbridge, a relative of Elsie’s late husband who becomes a friend as the two of them realise there is something evil within the house and no one else believes them.
And then there are Anne’s diaries. Dating back a further 200 years to 1635, they reveal a dark tale of magic, murder and a visit from the king and queen.

This is the kind of tale made to be savoured over dark Autumn nights.
The atmosphere of The Bridge in both time periods is wonderfully claustrophobic and unsettling, and when the companions start to take on a more life-like aspect and become threatening, it makes for really tense reading.
I found myself wanting to draw out my reading of this book, but at the same time I really wanted to find out the truth about what was happening, and why, and how the supposed curse upon The Bridge and it’s inhabitants came about in the first place.

I enjoyed The Silent Companions so much that I was sad to reach the end, but what an ending it was. I’m still thinking about it now.

Advertisements

Book Review: Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King

Name:  Sleeping Beauties
Author:  
Stephen King and Owen King
Number of Pages:
  715 (Hardback)
Published:
September 26th 2017 by Hodder & Stoughton
Genre:  Horror, Fantasy

Goodreads

In this spectacular father-son collaboration, Stephen King and Owen King tell the highest of high-stakes stories: what might happen if women disappeared from the world of men?
In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place. The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied, or is she a demon who must be slain? Set in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women’s prison, Sleeping Beauties is wildly provocative and gloriously absorbing.     – from Goodreads

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

In Sleeping Beauties things start to unravel very gradually.
The Aurora virus is spreading, causing any woman who goes to sleep to become wrapped in cocoon-like substance, and from that, they don’t wake up. And if someone is foolish enough to try and remove the cocoon? Let’s just say it’s possibly the last thing they will ever do.

Everyday life is progressing in Dooling – the regular mix of good people and bad people and those who fall into that grey area are all going about their business. News of Aurora is there, but never really registering until the crisis is well and truly established and the first blood has been spilled.
But there’s a new arrival in Dooling. The mysterious Evie Black appears under explosive circumstances and soon makes her presence felt, for Evie is different. She knows things about people, despite never having met them before. She apparently has power over animals, who will do her bidding, and the biggest talking point – she can sleep and wake without being affected by the cocoons, which makes her the centre of attention.

Arrested for her involvement in a double murder, Evie finds herself (by design?) incarcerated at the women’s prison, and it soon becomes a battle to keep Evie from falling into the hands of those who would do her harm, for only if she is saved will the female half of the world’s population have the opportunity (if they choose) to wake up and return to everyday life in the regular world.

There’s a lot to like in this story.
The setting for a lot of the book is the women’s prison, which becomes interesting as you consider that all those women, some of unpredictable temperament even under usual circumstances, are trapped together in this hopeless situation where they’re all likely to fall asleep, possibly forever.
Then there’s the magic element, the fantastic Tree surrounded by the animals/emissaries which are the animals that feature on the limited edition covers of the book.
It’s also great to get a glimpse of the place the women go to once they’re asleep, and the life they start to build there.
And of course, there’s the everyday world that the women leave behind, where the men are left to respond to the growing crisis in a variety of ways.

And the characters. There are a LOT, some to like and some to loathe.
I really liked Lila, the sheriff, who does her best to stay awake for as long as possible. And her husband Clint, a psychiatrist who works at the prison and becomes central to the story. He doesn’t set out to be heroic, isn’t at all in fact when the book starts out, but I came to admire his determination to defend the prison and protect Evie as the story went on.
On the opposite side is the loathsome prison officer Don Peters, who thinks he has the right to mistreat the women he watches over, and Frank Geary, the Animal Control officer who just cannot seem to control his temper and puts himself at the centre of things when everything starts to unravel. He’s not the type of man who should be in charge, and you can just tell things are going to spiral out of control if he has his way. Because he’s heard about Evie Black, and he wants to find her, to force her to end this sickness so that his young daughter will wake up.
And talking of Evie Black, the beautiful woman with her apparent mystical powers and her dramatic arrival is intriguing. Where has she come from? And does she really have the ability to wake all the women up? And what happens if she decides she doesn’t want to? Or if the women decide that they don’t want to come back after all?

So many questions. If you want to find out how and if it is all resolved in the end, give Sleeping Beauties a read.

Booking Ahead: November 2017

Booking Ahead is a feature on Pages and Tea where I glance through my never-ending TBR list/pile and select a few potential reads for the coming month. If I’m not reading books I love talking about books I’d like to read, so this post is a perfect excuse to do just that.

Welcome to another Booking Ahead.
Autumn is well under way and I’m in the mood for some slightly scary, gothic-themed reads this month. I think I’ll also try to fit in at least one modern day setting as well.

New Books

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell – Newly-widowed Elsie Bainbridge goes to stay at The Bridge, the old mansion belonging to her late husband’s family. There she finds the house surrounded by a sinister history, and a group of wooden figures, known as silent companions, that may be more than they first appear.

The Crow Garden by Alison Littlewood – Another gothic sounding tale of an asylum doctor who becomes involved in the case of a particular patient who has been deemed to suffer from ‘hysteria’ by her husband. There may be more to it than that though. I really hope I get around to reading this because it sounds really good.

Origin by Dan Brown – The latest offering from Dan Brown featuring Robert Langdon. I’ve read the other Langdon books so I’ll certainly check out this one. A couple of people have told me they flew through this in a couple of days, so I’m guessing it must be pretty readable.

Books from the Backlist

I haven’t selected any particular titles from my huge backlist this month. If I manage to get through the above books I’ll definitely choose a backlist title for my next read, but I think those three new books will probably be enough to keep me busy throughout November.


What are you hoping to read this month? Have you read of my picks, and if so what did you think?
See you again next month for another Booking Ahead.

Monthly Summary: October 2017

Welcome to another Monthly Summary on Pages and Tea.

How has your reading month been? I don’t feel like I read a lot, but then I think back and realise most of my reading time was consumed with Needful Things at over 900 pages and Sleeping Beauties at over 700 pages, so I’ve probably read a lot more than I imagined. I don’t know what it is with me and great big books but no matter how much I try, I can’t seem to resist them. I don’t think I deliberately pick huge books, but the authors I like to read seem to write massive books.

I also found time for a Book Tag, and as Top Ten Tuesday had a Halloween themed post I had to have a go at that too, and spend some time visiting other blogs to see ho much I could add to my TBR (like I really need to!).

Here’s what happened on Pages and Tea…

Book Reviews

Needful Things by Stephen King

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Featured Posts

Booking Ahead

October 2017

Top Ten Tuesday

Halloween Freebie

Book Tags

The How I Choose My Books Tag

Reading Review

Reading Resolutions 2017

October Progress

Beat the Backlist Challenge Progress

Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween Edition

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Each week they provide a prompt and other lovers of listmaking join in with their own top ten list.  Click on the link for more info and to find out about future topics.

This weeks theme is:   Halloween Freebie!


Here’s a list of ten things to watch or read if you’re embracing the mood of Halloween. Some of these are new-to-me and I’ll hopefully be experiencing them very soon. I don’t think I do super scary, so hopefully nothing on this list will terrify you too much!

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King – The women of the world are falling victim to the Aurora virus. They fall asleep and become cocooned in web-like material. Remove this at your peril.

Stranger Things 2 – I saw another trailer for this the other day and I cannot wait to start watching. I loved the first season, in which we learned of that strange place known as the Upside Down and met with Eleven and the group of kids who came to befriend her. I love the look of it, and the setting.

American Horror Story – The next season I have to watch is Roanoke. I wasn’t a massive fan of Hotel, but each season has a new theme, so I’ll definitely check this one out.

Strange Weather by Joe Hill – I don’t read that many short story collections but I enjoyed The Fireman by Joe Hill so thought I’d check out his next book, and these stories do sound really good.

Lore podcast and tv series – I’ve listened to a few episodes of the podcast and the stories are sometimes eerie, sometimes fascinating, but always engrossing, and the background music provides great atmosphere too. I hope the tv series is as good.

The Crow Garden by Alison Littlewood – A gothic-sounding tale featuring an asylum doctor who becomes interested in the case of one particular patient. Is she hysterical, as her husband claims, or is there something else going on?

Gerald’s Game – A Stephen King story adaptation. 2017 must be the year of King, with movies of IT and The Dark Tower, and tv series as well. I haven’t read the book this is based on, and not sure about a movie where a woman is cuffed to a bed throughout, but I’ll give it a watch. On a side note, there’s also a series of The Mist, which I watched a little while back. I actually thought that would be scarier than it turned out to be, which is why I’m only making passing reference to it here.

Crimson Peak – A newly-married young woman finds herself living on a gothic mansion with dark secrets and possible ghosts. It’s creepy and very gothic, a little scary in places without being totally terrifying. The costumes and setting are all beautiful. Don’t know why I hadn’t seen this movie before but I really enjoyed it.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell – A gothic mansion, creepy wooden figures that may be more than they first appear, locked rooms and old diaries. Sounds prefect for this time of year.

The Walking Dead – If zombies are your thing then this series is definitely one to check out. I love the danger, the peril, and the relationships between the characters who form the central group at the heart of the series. It also provides some excellent villains of the human kind. It’s strange that during times when the dead are walking and devouring any remaining human, sometimes the threat comes from the living. It’s very tense at times, and it doesn’t always pay to get attached to characters, because there’s no guarantee your favourites will make it out alive.


So, that’s it for this week.
What will you be reading/watching over Halloween? Have you read or watched anything that made my list this week?
I’ve actually enjoyed adding a few tv series and movies in this post, and might have to do that again for future Top Ten Tuesday posts.

See you next time!

Reading Review: October 2017

Welcome to my Monthly Reading Review.
This post is my attempt to keep track of how I’m doing with my reading challenges and resolutions.

BOOKS I’VE READ

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

Needful Things by Stephen King

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King

Total Library Books Read This Month: 2
Total Own Books Read This Month: 1
Overall Total Books Read This Month: 3

Total Library Books Read 2017: 24
Total Own Books Read 2017: 4
Overall Total Books Read 2017: 28

MY READ OF THE MONTH

Two King books and I’m trying to choose between them? That’s tough. And throw in Harry Potter and I’m really stuck. I don’t think I can choose this month.

BEAT THE BACKLIST

My total for this challenge is currently 15 books read. So far I’ve read:

Cell by Stephen King
Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
The Trees by Ali Shaw
The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
The Muse by Jessie Burton
North and South by John Jakes
The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan
The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling
The Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan
Feed by Mira Grant
The Novice by Trudi Canavan
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
Needful Things by Stephen King

GOODREADS

I’m currently at a total of 28 books. Wonder how many I’ll reach in total by the end of the year?

GOALS

I’m still managing to (mostly) post my reviews in a timely fashion, and I’m keeping track of my challenge progress


So concludes October’s Reading Review. See you again next month.

Book Review: Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Name:  Salem’s Lot
Author:  
Stephen King
Number of Pages:
  768 (Kindle Edition)
Published:
11th December 2008 by Hodder
Genre:  Horror

Goodreads

“Turn off the television—in fact, why don’t you turn off all the lights except for the one over your favourite chair?—and we’ll talk about vampires here in the dim. I think I can make you believe in them.” Stephen King, from the Introduction.
‘Salem’s Lot is a small New England town with the usual quota of gossips, drinkers, weirdos and respectable folk. Of course there are tales of strange happenings—but not more than in any other town its size.
Ben Mears, a moderately successful writer, returns to the Lot to write a novel based on his early years, and to exorcise the terrors that have haunted him since childhood. The event he witnessed in the house now rented by a new resident. A newcomer with a strange allure. A man who causes Ben some unease as things start to happen: a child disappears, a dog is brutally killed—nothing unusual, except the list starts to grow.
Soon surprise will turn to bewilderment, bewilderment to confusion and finally to terror . . .     – from Goodreads

My Rating:

5diamonds

My Thoughts:

I arrived at Salem’s Lot via the Dark Tower series. For this reason I went into this book thinking that it was Father Callahan’s story, which turned out not to be the case. He plays a larger role in the later stages of the book, and it is long enough since I finished my quest for the Tower that I couldn’t recall all the detail given in those stories regarding what had happened to Callahan during his time in the Lot.

The central character of this novel is Ben Mears, a writer who returns to Salem’s Lot to write a new book and to exorcise the demons of an experience during his youth, when he dared venture into a real haunted house, the Marsten House, where owner Hubie Marsten had killed his wife and then himself years previously.
The house is amazing, it’s an ominous, sinister almost life-like character in itself, and every scene taking place there leaves you just that little on edge. They very idea of this eerie old house looming over the rest of the Lot is a little intimidating, and that’s before we find out exactly what has taken up residence inside.

It’s a while before people realise what is going on in the Lot, and even then, when people start disappearing and dying in unexplained circumstances, it is a very small group who band together and suspend disbelief. Ben is accompanied by Jimmy Cody, a doctor, and his main ally is teacher Matt Burke, who never doubts for a moment the nature of the evil facing the town. Mark Petrie is a young boy who witnesses first hand the results of an encounter with the ever-absent Barlow, and he willingly joins the fight to rid the town of the vampire.

So many creepy moments, this is the perfect read for those dark nights of Autumn, darkness drawing in earlier as we edge towards winter, and the changing seasons are described in the book really well, as are the regular snapshots of this little community living their little lives totally oblivious to the all-consuming evil lurking just out of sight.

Straker is the perfect human representative for the vampire Barlow. He’s charismatic and charming but there’s clearly something dangerous about him too, it’s just something that only certain members of the community are aware of until it’s too late. Barlow himself is enigmatic, avoiding scrutiny, but when he does appear and there’s the showdown with Callahan it’s a brilliant scene.

I loved the growing sense of the impossible as the whole town becomes under the thrall of Barlow and his evil, and the odds being so stacked against our dwindling band of heroes, who suffer new horrors with each new realisation about the vampires and the extent of their reach. There is always a very real possibility that the heroes just might not win the day, which makes it a real page turner, because you just have to know.

The epilogue is a suitably dismal vision, because even when you think it’s over, it offers the possibility that this isn’t actually the case. I loved the section set in the 1850s, so creepy, so atmospheric, done through letters back and forth, and showing that the horror surrounding the Lot spans the generations and will probably never leave. I could have read a whole full length novel set in this time period and loved it.