The Silent Companions
by Laura Purcell
Paperback, 364 pages
Published April 5th 2018 by Bloomsbury Publishing
When newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge, what greets her is far from the life of wealth and privilege she was expecting . . .
When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But with her husband dead just weeks after their marriage, her new servants resentful, and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure —a silent companion —-that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of The Bridge are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition–that is, until she notices the figure’s eyes following her.
A Victorian ghost story that evokes a most unsettling kind of fear, this is a tale that creeps its way through the consciousness in ways you least expect–much like the silent companions themselves.
The Silent Companions have been on my TBR ever since I saw its beautifully creepy covers. Despite the ambiguousness of the synopsis, I felt really drawn to the story as I always love some Victorian gothic horror.
And it didn’t disappoint! Set in an isolated, nearly abandoned Victorian mansion called The Bridge, it was very atmospheric. Upon the first pages, you can feel the dread creeping in with Elsie finally coming to The Bridge to attend her husband’s funeral and raise their child there. Surrounded by wilderness where nothing grew, superstitious villagers, and later, creepy wooden dolls, from the start you can feel that there’s something wrong with The Bridge. The author builds the atmosphere really well; despite the wrongness we’re unsure on whether it’s due to Elsie’s grief, the villagers, or something else. Add to it the fact that some horrible accident and a series of deaths happened 200 years ago, the whole thing felt eerie and claustrophobic. In short, it exceeds my expectations.
Another thing I love is the multiple timeline this book has. This story mainly told from Elsie’s point of view, split into before vs after the series of unexplainable events. But it is also told from the diary of Anne Bainbridge in the 1600s, when the Bridge was first purchased and sort of explain the eeriness of The Bridge. Elsie’s chapters were interesting to read because we are intrigued on what has happened, but Anne’s chapters were also captivating as to answer the why. From why the Bridge was built, to why deaths always happened and The Bridge has its silent companions. I honestly enjoyed Anne’s chapters more since she has such a captivating voice compared to Elsie’s sad and isolated one- the Bridge was once a lively place- and she was an interesting woman to read about.
Speaking of the silent companions… apparently they are a real thing. You’re welcome.
The biggest fall of this book for me come from the characters. I was so intrigued by the mystery and the atmosphere, I felt like the characters weren’t developed really well. There’s Elsie, the recently married and widowed and now owner of The Bridge. There’s Sarah, Elsie’s husband estranged cousin who became her companion at the house. There’s Joylon, Elsie’s sister, as well the three housekeeper of The Bridge and Mr. Underwood, the local parish. Elsie was an interesting characters in a way that she deeply loves her brother Joylon and often alludes to her terrible past. There’s an element of past horrible secret that shadows our main character and made us cannot trust her 100%. I had my suspicions but the reveal was more layered than I thought. Another interesting thing is how she and Joylon consider themselves equal in running their match factory; despite Joylon’s name on the papers, Elsie was as involved as he was and often attended meetings with him. However, aside from those things I couldn’t bring myself to care what happen with Elsie as she lacked the spark of intrigue.
I took my time with this book since the atmosphere and the eeriness means I want to savor this book slowly. The ending did not disappoint, in a way that it was very open-ended and gave me goosebumps! I do wish that we got a liiiitle bit more of resolution, but the current ending do add some of the creepy factor. If you’re in the mood for something spooky and slow paced that you can curl up with, I highly recommend this book!