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The Silent Companions (2018)

by Laura Purcell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4763736,360 (3.67)16
"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"--… (more)
  1. 10
    Dummy Boards and Chimney Boards by Clare Graham (PuddinTame)
    PuddinTame: Dummy Boards, also called Silent Companions inspired Laura Purcell's horror novel.
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» See also 16 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
Poor girl nabs rich guy
snubs his kin, hates his old house
freaks out at cutouts. ( )
  Eggpants | Jun 25, 2020 |
If you’re going to fashion a novel around classic tropes from the Gothic era such as an isolated country house, supernatural happenings, wary villagers, and generalised malevolent energy, it’s got to be pretty good to be worth reading over, erm, novels from the Gothic era. Unfortunately, The Silent Companions doesn’t quite cut it. This verdict puts me in the minority - the novel has garnered plenty of 4* and 5* reviews - but I’ll stick my neck out, while admitting I may be marking harshly.

It is not without merit. There is intrigue and tension, and the plot is promising - it just gets itself into a bit of a pickle. This is frustrating as there is plenty of potential to be found among the various threads; there is perhaps just too much going on. Some of the more interesting elements - Rupert’s back-story, the vicar turning Sarah’s head, an above/below stairs dalliance, Jolyon’s provenance - turn out to be asides rather than woven detail or even satisfying twists.

The warning signs were there in the early chapters: tired similes, anachronistic dialogue, characters taking it in turns to ‘choose their next words with care’. So far, so banal. None of the characters is especially likeable, including our heroine, Elsie Bainbridge, and thus it is difficult to care much about what happens to them. 320 pages is a lot of pages when you don’t care. The body count ratchets up towards the end, and we are treated to deaths that wouldn’t be out of place in Midsomer Murders, but by this point any willing suspension of disbelief has been exhausted. In fact, I began to wonder if it was Jasper the Cat wot dunnit. Like several things in this novel, he seems to have some significance, but no-one knows what (nod to Rebecca notwithstanding).

The ending is thought-provoking, but ultimately unrewarding. There is bleakness without resolution, the asylum framing device clunking heavily. The doctor, seemingly on course to come through for Elsie, turns out to be a damp squib; he shuffles off, presumably as weary of the flying splinters and interminable hissing noise as the rest of us.

The Silent Companions is diverting enough, but would not stand up to a second reading, unlike several other recent-ish novels in the gothic tradition. For evocation of place, read Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black. For the uncanny, read Paul Torday’s The Girl on The Landing. For a masterpiece of creeping unease, read Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger. Read this for a bit of Gothic-lite on a dreary winter’s evening. ( )
  NEB2020 | May 10, 2020 |
Man, I flew through that much faster than anticipated. I just couldn't put it down.

I don't like to read horror, and though I didn't find this THAT scary while reading, I have jumped half out of my seat at every little bump and thump all evening and snapped at my boyfriend for lurking around behind me and giving me chills. So, there's that.

This book had traces of Alias Grace, The Woman in Black, and Doctor Who(? IKR), but weaved a story of its own with a steady pace that kept my interest all the way through.

And on a personal note, apart from my umpteenth reread of Harry Potter, I can't remember the last time I read a book without being constantly irritated by stupid main characters or uncompelling plots. There wasn't a trace of that in this book - all the way up until the end. WHY! I suspected that something *like* that would happen, but didn't expect it to be so cruel.

Can't wait for this one to actually come out so I can recommend it to customers! ( )
  Midhiel | Mar 18, 2020 |
I feel like this book would've made a scarier movie, you know? This one has been talked up as a really creepy gothic tale, and if I'm being honest, I didn't find it a bit creepy. But did I finish it? Yes. So at least there's that. This tale is about a woman who has suffered through some traumatic event and is no longer speaking. As her doctor begins to dig into her past and read her story, we discover she (and the past residents of an old family estate) has been haunted by wooden figures - silent companions, if you will. Are they real or just wood? In gothic fashion, we wonder whether there's something to it or whether our female protagonist is just a bit mad. If you like a decent mystery and a storyline fit for a movie (that could actually maybe be creepy?), this one might be more for you. Overall, I give it a solid "it wasn't bad, just okay" from me. ( )
  justagirlwithabook | Oct 13, 2019 |
Successfully eerie!

I found this book to be quite atmospheric and it certainly created a sense of being watched... I looked up a few times just to check! It’s successfully eerie and quite a page turner albeit predictable. It was a little bit of a let down when it came to use of correct language in the ‘old English’ parts but apart from that a satisfying gothic thriller. I’d say thriller rather than horror, although there is a fair bit of gore... so I’ll leave you to decide on that side of things! I’ll look out for her other books for sure. ( )
  Jellichor | Jul 2, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Purcell, Lauraprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Forner, AlisonCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

References to this work on external resources.

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Book description
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--Provided by publisher.

They seem to be even more frequently referred to as dummy boards (not nearly as snappy a title)
Silent companions on Incollect.com.
Dummy boards on Past Mastery
Synopsis of an article by Clive Edwards in Studies in the Decorative Arts
Short article by Luke Honey on Home & Antiques
Web searches of images will also pull up a lot of examples.
Haiku summary
Silent companions
An old, crumbling mansion
A family curse?
(passion4reading)

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