As with a silent companion, this book snuck up on me. I finished it two nights ago and have been thinking about it ever since as, just like a Henry James novel, I’m not entirely sure what I just read. Was it a descent into madness, was it a ghost story, a betrayal? What? What was it? All I know for sure, is that I loved it.
I have long been a fan of ambiguity, but this was so, so clever. So very victorian in flavor. Incredibly different from what we seem to read in this day and age. The Silent Companions, by Laura Purcell, is a book that you read with absolute dread in your heart, for you know that there cannot and will not be any happiness to it, but at the same time, that’s what makes it so very magical.
Elsie Bainbridge is the very young widow of a good man from a cursed family. She’s pregnant and returning to the family estate with her husband’s cousin Sarah, a woman of a nervous disposition. Upon arrival the two find a skeleton staff and a house in obvious neglect. Plagued by mysterious sounds, the two explore a long closed part of the house, to discover a room filled with the odds and ends no one in the family wants, most notably a ‘silent companion’, a painted life size image of girl who bares a striking resemblance to Elsie and so the story begins in earnest.
The Silent Companions is a brilliantly crafted, modern day, gothic novel. It mesmerizes and terrifies you in equal measure and if I were a more affluent book reviewer, I would be desperately trying to secure the film rights. Read it.