The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell #BookReview #HO17

HorrorOct2017

 

ThesilentcompanionTitle: The Silent Companions
Author: Laura Purcell
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 384 pages
Publication Details: October 5th 2017 by Raven Books
Genre(s): Horror; Historical Fiction
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

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Inspired by the work of Shirley Jackson and Susan Hill and set in a crumbling country mansion, The Silent Companions is an unsettling gothic ghost story to send a shiver down the spine…

Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge.

With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. But inside her new home lies a locked room, and beyond that door lies a two-hundred-year-old diary and a deeply unsettling painted wooden figure – a Silent Companion – that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself.

Review

 

 

The premise of this book had me at ‘Susan Hill’ and ‘crumbling mansion’, and although it wasn’t without its flaws, I ended up really enjoying it.

In The Silent Companions, we first meet Elsie in an institution. She can’t talk and the doctors seem very wary of her; she’s mad; a lost cause. But there is one doctor who tries to help her to communicate, to hear her story.

Elsie tells the story of how she came to The Bridge, an old mansion with incompetent staff, pregnant and husbandless. Now a Lady of the House, Elsie tries to adjust to her new life, but the mansion is strange, cold, and unwelcoming. Her only friend is Sarah her late husband’s sister, who she finds dull, but beggars can’t be choosers as they say.

When Elsie and Sarah come across a locked attic room whilst exploring the house, they wonder what could possibly be up there. Then, all of a sudden, the door isn’t locked anymore. In the room is something that will propel a series of bizarre and dangerous events – a silent companion.

I had never heard of silent companions, and this book compelled me to look them up. They are strange wooden paintings made to look like people with shading and the like. They’re pretty creepy by all accounts, especially when they start multiplying and moving of their own accord!

It took me a while to get into this book- I wasn’t a fan of the beginning- but by the time Elsie and Sarah found the first companion I was already starting to get intrigued, and from then on I was hooked.

What I struggled with was the structure. Now, I don’t know whether it was down to the digital proof (which could be resolved now it’s published) but there was no indication of when we shifted in time which was really off putting. It threw me off on a lot of occasions. It also took me a while to realise that a second storyline came from a diary that Sarah found – also in the attic – and gave us an origin story as to the original ghost/companions. It would have certainly benefited from a dinkus or *** each time, so the reader doesn’t have to work too hard in figuring out where they are in the story, and whose storyline we are following.

However, this was a great read overall. As the premise suggests, it is a return to a traditional ghost story in the style of the likes of Susan Hill & Shirley Jackson, and it’s an impressive diversion from Purcell’s usual historical fictions.

horroctrating-4

Up Next on Horror October:

30 days of Horror: What will day 16 bring?

An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman #BookReview

HorrorOct2015

An English Ghost Story ~ Kim Newman

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Format: Paperback, 315 pages
Publication Details: October 7th 2014 by Titan Books
Genre(s): Horror; Supernatural
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it.

Goodreads // Purchase

A dysfunctional British nuclear family seek a new life away from the big city in the sleepy Somerset countryside. At first their new home, The Hollow, seems to embrace them, creating a rare peace and harmony within the family. But when the house turns on them, it seems to know just how to hurt them the most—threatening to destroy them from the inside out.

Review

This was the last book I read for Horror October, and I’m so glad because I finished the month on a high.

An English Ghost Story was exactly what I was looking for! It was a book which started with promise. I was absorbed from the beginning even before anything spooky happened and then it built up its suspense and creepiness in a masterful, almost majestic way.

The Naremore family move into a grand old house in the countryside which was previously owned by a famous children’s author whose popular series of books were about a haunted boarding school. It turns out that these books were a lot less fictitious than anyone would have believed.

However, the ghosts, spirits, or presences (however you would like to refer to them) struck the Naremore family as friendly, and they found The Hollow an enchanted place to live. A place where they were finally happy; it had brought the family together in a way they had not felt before.

Unfortunately for them…the family had been lulled into a false sense of security and bit by bit, the ‘others’ in the house start to make life very difficult in The Hollow. The dream home, becomes a nightmare. They are turned against each other, and it looks as if they won’t wake up until there’s no one left.

This book was delicious for a horror fan like me. Ghost stories aren’t usually my favourite because I often find them unbelievable and just not scary enough, but I loved how ‘real’ An English Ghost Story felt. It gradually built up momentum as the house began to turn against them and slowly pulled their family apart. I couldn’t put it down.

It was funny in places, certainly creepy, and had some great gory, gross-out moments, but it felt magical too; it had a whimsical feel about it, like reading through a dream.

I was very impressed by my first delve into Kim Newman’s imagination, and I can’t wait to read more. Maybe I’ll finally get round to Anno Dracula now!

unicorn rating 4

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Haunted House Books #HorrorOctober

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish (click the link to visit them) who pick a different topic each week.

This week the topic is a Halloween themed freebie — our choice. I’ve chosen the theme of haunted houses!

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Read any of these? What would have made your list?

Back to Blackbrick by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

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Title: Back to Blackbrick
Author: Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
Series: N/A
Edition: Paperback, 272 pages
Publication Details: February 7th 2013 by Orion Children’s Books
Genre(s): YA; Sci-Fi
Disclosure? Nope! I borrowed it from Dora. Thanks Dora.

Goodreads
Purchase


Cosmo’s brother Brian died when he was ten years old. His mum hides her grief by working all the hours God sends and Cosmo lives with his grandparents. They’ve been carefree days as Granddad buys him a horse called John and teaches him all he knows about horses. But the good times have to come to an end and although he doesn’t want to admit it, Cosmo knows his Granddad is losing his mind. So on one of the rare occasions when Granddad seems to recognise him, Cosmo is bemused that he gives him a key to Blackbrick Abbey and urges him to go there. Cosmo shrugs it off, but gradually Blackbrick draws him in…

Cosmo arrives there, scared and lonely, and is dropped off at the crumbling gates of a huge house. As he goes in, the gates close, and when he turns to look, they’re rusty and padlocked as if they haven’t been opened in years. Cosmo finds himself face to face with his grandfather as a young man, and questions begin to form in his mind: can Cosmo change the course of his family’s future?

 Review

I really enjoyed Sarah’s second YA novel, The Apple Tart of Hope which I got through Netgalley, so I was eager to go back to her first offering, Back to Blackbrick.

Like The Apple Tart of Hope, Back to Blackbrick is a quirky read told in a unique voice. It seems to me that both of Sarah’s stories are full of juxtapositions; they are set in the real world yet have fantasy elements; they are humorous and light-hearted, yet also deal with serious subject matter.

I love that about Sarah’s writing. It feels real but magical at the same time.

Back to Blackbrick is narrated by Cosmo. He hates his name, the fact that his brother died in such a stupid manner (he fell out of a window), his mother for getting on a plane and never coming back, the school kids who call him Loser Boy, and that his granddad’s Alzheimer’s is getting worse by the day.

But Cosmo is a spirited boy. He doesn’t despair too much over these things and he definitely doesn’t dwell on them. Instead, he throws himself into helping his granddad to remember things.

When his granddad gives him a mysterious key, along with the name Blackbrick, and asks him to promise to go there, Cosmo sets off on his own adventure. Beyond his imagination, Cosmo opens the gates to Blackbrick and finds himself face-to-face with his granddad, only he’s 50 years younger….

Can Cosmo use this time lapse to his advantage? He wants to teach his granddad good mind practices, and stop his brother from falling out of the window, but that might not be so simple as it’s easy to get swept away with life at Blackbrick.

I thought this book was beautifully told, funny, and well, just cute. I can’t think of any better way to describe it than that. It was exciting in parts, sad in others, but Cosmo’s frank way of looking at the world really shone through and made the story what it is: Unique.

unicorn rating 4

Back to Blackbrick and The Apple Tart of Hope are available in paperback from Waterstones.