Silence is Ghastly: A review of The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Who wouldn’t be drawn to this book having spotted its wonderfully enticing cover? And then, on inspection, to read that it “conjures up The Women in Black, The Turn of The Screw and Rebecca”…? I just had to read that first page to see if it was indeed my kind of novel. …It was, Reader, it was.

From the start, it is revealed to us that Elsie, the protagonist, is confined to a mental hospital because of events that took place in her late husband’s neglected family home, The Bridge. The book recounts said events and her time there following her marriage and the subsequent premature death of her husband. Elsie is also pregnant and haunted by her past. All she needs is a host of menacing life sized wooden “silent companions” to stalk her. Yes, Elsie’s life is not going well. 

There are three timelines in the story that are quite easy to follow and the narrative kept me steadfastly engaged as I thought, what the hell is going on (in a good way). It kept me guessing and changing my alligence; my suspicions heightened, questioning each character’s motivation and role. The spook factor is present from an early stage. The Victorian gothic settings of the book are eerie (the house) and unsettling (the hospital), and the creepy atmosphere rises and falls sufficiently to unnerve the reader. There were moments when I thought “Huh? Does that make sense?” or “Where did that come from?” or “Would they really do that?” But these were largely inconsequential, given my great enjoyment of the book. 

Purcell writes with semblance, describing the hostility of the house and the reactions of the residents well. She wonderfully creates tension, and encourages empathy with the characters.  It certainly is a chilling read, and it is best opened at night to capitalise on the sinister narrative and the occasional shocks. Yes, Reader, I recommend it. 

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