The Silent Companions
By Laura Purcell
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
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. (Goodreads)
The Silent Companions, with its Gothic crumbling estate, shadowy Victorian setting, and seriously creepy wooden figures, will entrance readers looking for a sinister read that will keep you reading with the lights on.
The story actually alternates between two time periods at the family estate, The Bridge. We meet Elsie as she arrives at her new husband’s ancestral estate for his funeral. It is unclear from the beginning what led to Rupert’s demise, and Elsie is met by disagreeable staff and untrusting locals. Her only companion is Rupert’s cousin Sarah, who Elsie initially finds almost unbearably dull. They do grow close, however, after they discover a strange wooden figure, a Dutch silent companion, in the garret of the sprawling home. Unexplained things begin to happen and the figures multiply, threatening all who live at the Bridge. Alternately, the novel tells the story of Rupert’s seventeenth century ancestors who brought the silent companions into the home and sparked the village’s thinking that the estate housed a witch. Things progress in both timelines, coming to a quietly gut wrenching and chilling conclusion for Elsie.
My first impression of Elsie is that she is a snob, but readers soon learn about her tragic upbringing. And the passages that take place in the “present” with Elsie in a mental hospital are heart wrenching and, at times, disturbing. I confess to not knowing what was real or imagined at many points throughout the tale, and I think this is the author’s intention. Some things are just unexplainable without believing in the paranormal. The story moves along at a steady pace, the urgency to find out what happens next prodding me to read well past my bedtime…with the lights on. Even though we learn quite a bit about Elsie, I do wish there was more back story for Rupert and more about Elsie’s brother Jolyon (there is an interesting inference about Elsie and Jolyon towards the end of the book that changes everything).
The Silent Companions will creep you out and stay with you long after the last word is read.