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