The Silent Companions unfolds across three narration periods; the diary of Anne Bainbridge in 1635, the events at The Bridge in 1885 with recently widowed Elsie Bainbridge and the most recent developments at St Joesph’s Hospital. All three narrative periods are interconnected to cultivate one-heck-of-a gripping climax.
Thiiiiiis book! If you want something gothic, haunting, chilling… read this book. There are one or two moments of graphic horror, fair warning. The plot of this book reminded me of a particular episode of Doctor Who, or more specifically, a particular species from the TV show (… I can’t name them as it would 100% ruin the book). But let me tell you, this book creeped me out just as much as the Doctor Who episode.
Purcell’s style of writing drew me in from the first couple of pages. As the story progressed, I consistently had a burning need to know more and more with every turn of the page – every chapter left me theorising and trying to work out what was happening. This truly was brilliantly written.
The plot is mainly based at The Bridge, a manor in the English countryside that oozes history and eeriness. I could easily imagine the grounds, the hallways, the rooms, the bridge… and the Companions. All of this was extremely effectual in transporting me into the book’s world, which made it all the more spooky when things started going south for the poor ladies of the house.
On that note – something that took me by surprise was the majority of the characters were an ensemble of women, and Purcell illustrated these women in their social strata. I was really taken with this – and was annoyed out my mind when Elsie’s (younger) brother was pulling rank over her because of their genders, and poor Hetta was dismissed because of her disability. I just think this dimension of the novel was a nice touch to the feelings of unease and horror that were building across the book. The characters in general are well developed and easily liked or loathed when relevant.
The ending of this book exemplifies this as a horror. I was horror-struck. And describing myself as that is no exaggeration.
I’ve hummed and hawed about how to convey this without it being a “spoiler”. There is no happy ending here. Sometimes when reading a book, we desperately want our heroes and heroines to have a happy ending, and it can be of great disappointment when that doesn’t happen. We’ve invested 300+ pages caring about them. So that’s why I feel I can say this as a prelude to prospective readers: there is no happy ending here. You will feel horror in the last pages, right to the closing words. If you can stomach that, then carry on with your plans to read this.
Overall, I read this within two days and I’m rating it 4 stars. I did feel there were some unresolved matters as I still had questions by the end. I suspect some of these lingering questions are intentional, for each and every reader to conclude their own opinions. However, I personally would have liked a clean ending, with all my questions answered in the pages. Nonetheless, I absolutely loved this gothic and creepy horror, and recommend it.
As a side note, I have gone on to read other books by Purcell – and can say without a shadow of doubt, she is excellent for capturing gothic atmospheres and complex characters.
The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
Published October 2017
Genre: horror, mystery, gothic fiction, historical fiction