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The Silent Companions

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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.

305 pages, Paperback

First published October 5, 2017

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About the author

Laura Purcell

14 books2,393 followers
Laura Purcell is a former bookseller and lives in Colchester with her husband and pet guinea pigs.

Her first novel for Raven Books THE SILENT COMPANIONS won the WHSmith Thumping Good Read Award 2018 and featured in both the Zoe Ball and Radio 2 Book Clubs. Other Gothic novels include THE CORSET (THE POISON THREAD in USA), BONE CHINA and THE SHAPE OF DARKNESS (2020)

Laura’s historical fiction about the Hanoverian monarchs, QUEEN OF BEDLAM and MISTRESS OF THE COURT, was published by Myrmidon.

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5 stars
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3 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,648 reviews
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,705 reviews25k followers
August 30, 2017
This is a tantalisingly creepy and menacing gothic horror novel, populated by ghosts, and set in 1866. It begins with a patient, Mrs Elsie Bainbridge, a woman badly burnt in a fire, being questioned by Dr Shepherd, a progressive psychologist at St Joseph's, after a year in which she has been recovering from her injuries. She is mute and cannot remember what happened. It becomes apparent there have been several deaths and she is suspected of murder. With a hangman's noose hovering over her, Dr Shepherd slowly gets her to remember what happened which she writes on a slate. It begins with a pregnant Elsie travelling to a dilapidated country house, The Bridge, where her husband, Rupert, recently died. She has never been there before, and is accompanied by a spinster companion, Sarah, a poverty stricken relative of her husband. The house leaves a lot to be desired, with two inexperienced maids and Mrs Holt, the housekeeper. Locals believe the house is cursed, once inhabited by a witch, with a history numerous strange deaths and accidents.

Elsie hears strange sounds and hissing which unnerves her. The house is littered with 'companions' constructed of wood and painting intended to startle, Dutch in origin. One looks uncannily like Elsie, they appear to move, with new ones appearing out of thin air, sinister and exuding menace. Sarah is obsessed by finding out about her family history. With strange events revolving round the old nursery and the garret, and apparently hallucinatory experiences, Elsie hears about writings that come and go. The diary of Anne Bainbridge from over 200 years ago is discovered. This gives us a historical storyline about the marriage of Anne and Josiah Bainbridge, and their preparation for a visit by the King. Anne lost her beloved sister and conjures a pregnancy from potions and ancient words for a girl. This results in Hetta, their mute daughter, a young girl destined to haunt The Bridge. A litany of horrors and tragedies unfold, destined to echo and replicate down the centuries. The reader is left wondering whether Elsie is treading the territory of madness or whether there is a deeper malevolent evil at play.

Laura Purcell has written a deeply unsettling story inhabiting by ghosts, and the fearsome, scary, silent companions which are unlikely to be forgotten anytime soon by me. It is the ideal book to read around Halloween, or whenever you feel like a need to be frightened out of your wits. It is a story of family secrets and the traumatic history of a house that is no stranger to death and tragedy. Purcell's writing is atmospheric, with a subtle and complex narrative that leaves the reader wondering what to believe. The character of Elsie, a woman hampered by the rigidity of Victorian expectations of women, is a brilliant creation. Her development charting her path to a broken woman is mesmerising. A brilliantly spooky and creepy read. Thanks to Bloomsbury for an ARC.
Profile Image for Julie .
4,075 reviews59k followers
November 7, 2018
The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell is a 2018 Penguin Books publication.

The best Gothic Horror novel I’ve read in a long time!

Elsie, recently widowed, and pregnant with her first child arrives in a remote village, with her husband’s cousin, Sarah, to live in an old home, owned by her husband, referred to as ‘The Bridge’, which has not been lived in for quite some time. Due to her husband’s wealth, and his sudden death so soon after their marriage, rumors and scandal are breathing down Elsie’s neck, but the villagers and her limited staff are also quite superstitious about her, and the house.

While exploring the house, which is full of locked rooms, Elsie finds some old diaries, as well a ‘Silent companion’ – which is a painted wooden figure that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie.

The staff is terrified of the 'companions', but Elsie is determined to learn of their origins. As it happens, diary entries written by Anne Bainbridge back in the 1600s, provides Elsie with plenty of shocking family secrets-

The story is told in three alternating segments-

Elsie, badly burned in a fire, is under the care of a doctor who is attempting to discover her culpability in that fire and her level of sanity. As the doctor slowly draws the story from Elsie we are taken back to her arrival at ‘The Bridge’, as she explains her experiences leading up to the deadly fire. We are also transported back to the 1600’s via Anne’s diaries, where we learn Anne may have dabbled in a little witchcraft to conceive a child- a decision she may come to regret.

Wow! I let this book sit on my TBR list longer than I had intended. For some reason when I picked it up I was under the impression this was a historical mystery of some kind. I was totally taken off guard by the chilly ambience, the overwhelming Gothic tones, and the rip-roaring, spine tingling ghost story!! To say I was pleased is an understatement!

This is one of those stories that makes a good fireside read on a cold, dark winter night. It’s very well constructed, multi-layered, written in a lush, almost beautiful prose. I haven’t read a recently published novel of Gothic horror this good in…. I couldn’t tell you when.

This is what Gothic horror should look like- and feel like. The atmosphere was thick and heavy with impending doom, the suspense was taut, keeping me on edge and practically glued to the pages. I’d never heard of a ‘Silent Companion’ until I read this book. The history behind them is interesting, but in this case, they creeped me out big time.

This is a perfect, shivery, chiller with an OUTSTANDING conclusion that will blow your socks off!

Yep, this one goes on the favorites list, for sure!!

5 stars
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
719 reviews1,112 followers
November 1, 2020
In London, she had learnt to scoff at her fear as nonsense, but now she was back she could feel it, creeping, slithering. Something dark and insidious.”

Holy shit!!

What an outstanding Halloween read! This book was the definition of creepy.

Elsie is pregnant, newly widowed and about to move into her husband’s family home The Bridge. It is full of rumours and the local villagers are terrified of the house. Elsie thinks it’s all ridiculous. It’s just an old house. Together with her husbands cousin Sarah she begins working on getting the house clean and prepared for the baby’s arrival. When they come across these wooden figures referred to as companions, Elsie finds them intriguing and decides to bring them out.

Separately we have a timeline from after this era, when Elsie is in a psychiatric hospital and unable to speak. Her doctor tries to get her to tell the story of what happened.

Finally we have an even older timeline in the 1600’s from Anne Bainbridge. Elsie’s husbands ancestor.

All these different elements combine to make an eerie story where everything creeps along, I thought it might have been too slow but honestly it was perfect to build up this feeling of dread.

If you like creepy gothic fiction then this is for you. It combines horror with mental instability. The supernatural with the evil of humanity. I loved it and will be reading everything Laura Purcell writes.
Profile Image for John Mauro.
Author 5 books513 followers
September 6, 2023
My complete review is published at Grimdark Magazine.

The Silent Companions is Laura Purcell’s unnerving tale of Gothic horror that gradually reveals itself over multiple timeframes. The novel opens during an undisclosed year as the main character, Elsie Bainbridge, finds herself imprisoned in an asylum. She is suspected of murder and arson and has lost the ability to speak. Inexplicably, she is also covered with terrible burns.

The Silent Companions then flashes back to 1865, just before Elsie’s imprisonment. Elsie has been left widowed only a short time after her wedding. She is expecting a baby and travels to her late husband’s family estate, the Bridge, where she stays with her younger brother, Jolyon, and her husband’s reticent cousin, Sarah.

While staying at the Bridge, Elsie and Sarah discover a set of silent companions, i.e., cutout wooden boards with realistic paintings of people, also known as “dummy boards.” Silent companions were introduced as an artform in England in the 1600s. A quick Google search of “dummy board” will show you exactly how creepy they look. The silent companions give Elsie and Sarah the impression of being possessed.

Sarah discovers a diary of her ancestor, Anne Bainbridge, from the early 1600s. The diary tells the story of Anne’s daughter, Hetta. After having only sons, Anne wished for a daughter and apparently brought Hetta into the world through herbal witchcraft. But something went terribly wrong, and Hetta’s tongue never developed enough to allow her to speak. Hetta is strangely drawn to the group of silent companions brought into the house by Anne, and a series of gruesome events soon follows.

The Silent Companions continues along the three timelines of Anne and Hetta in the 1600s, Elsie and Sarah at the Bridge in 1865, and Elsie at the asylum. The Silent Companions is brilliantly crafted for maximum suspense as Elsie tries to understand what happened to herself and to her deceased husband, and to uncover the source of evil infecting his estate. But to understand these mysteries, Elsie must also come to terms with her own haunted past.

All of this leads up to a perfectly crafted climax, until the final word of The Silent Companions drops like a bomb on everything you thought you knew.

The Silent Companions is Laura Purcell’s masterpiece and the original reason I fell in love with Gothic horror. I consider it to be the perfect entry point for readers new to the genre and wanting to give it a try.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to Icey for introducing me to this book with her outstanding review. Thank you, Icey!
Profile Image for Icey.
153 reviews121 followers
January 18, 2022
We have all heard the whisper in the darkness before.

A sound, a noise. The creaking floor, the rustling of leaves, the whirling wind. Or maybe something else.
A hiss.
Distant, but loud.
Did you imagine it?
That unsettling, evocative smell of silence enveloped you. There it was again, in the shadow of the house—a lover’s whisper, seductive but dangerous.
And you knew in your heart, at that moment, that there was no going back.

The Silent Companion proved perfectly why I love Gothic stories. Creepiness and uncertainty can become the most addictive poison when combined, and Laura Purcell did an excellent job. Her writing style reminded me a little bit of The Miniaturist; both books have a subtle and smooth beauty in them, which I immensely enjoy.
Immersive and atmospheric, it was such a fabulous reading journey.

Haunted houses are my favorite trope ever in a story, there is something so delicately and maliciously beautiful.
And a desolated countryside mansion set in Victorian?
Holy Ghost, of course I’m here to read it.

Key Words: Gothic | Haunted house | Secrets | Dual timeline | Victorian
Profile Image for Mary Beth .
383 reviews1,765 followers
January 22, 2018

4.5 stars

This is a Gothic suspense book set in a haunted mansion in England. Elsie Bainbridge is the main character. She is only married for a few weeks, then her husband dies. The story goes back and forth, to the past and present from 1635 and 1865. The present discusses her imprisoned in an asylum and the events that got her there. In the past she travels to her late husbands estate, an old crumbling mansion called, The Bridge. Elsie only has her husbands cousin for company. The new servants and local villagers are actively hostile and resentful. The locals fear the house. Inside the mansion is a locked door, beyond is a painted wooden figure, a silent companion that looks like Elsie's twin but Elsie doesn't have a twin. It looks exactly like her. The residents of The Bridge are terrified of this wooden figure. Elsie doesn't know what to think of it, but she is
the only one that is not afraid of it until she notices its eyes following her and watching her. This wooden figure is so eerie and sinister. There is also a diary full of entries when she lived in the mansion. The Bridge is full of secrets.

This is a very spooky creepy Gothic suspense novel. This book actually gave me goosebumps and I found it very chilling. I could just feel the Gothic suspense atmosphere brewing. It has all the ingredients in it, that you need in a gothic. I thought the silent companions of the story were a little disturbing. This book was so gripping from the very beginning to the end. I just can't give this book the justice, this book deserves.

I found the writing style captivating and was glued to the pages. It definitely held my attention and kept me reading to the wee hours of the morning. It creeped me out, and I would jump anytime I heard a noise in my house. I thought the whole town was eerie and I thought the author did a very good job in her characters.

I recommend this book to those that enjoy a spooky Gothic suspense ghost story.

I got this arc from Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Beverly.
833 reviews314 followers
March 5, 2019
Hss. Hss. Hss. Five big stars for this Gothic horror show, to all my Goodreads friends who recommended this, "Thank you!" I have had a scary book appetite lately, but none of the books I devoured quite satisfied the craving until this delicious nugget. Short, but terrifying, this story begins with a woman in an asylum who has been drugged into insensibility.

She is being coaxed by a kind doctor to remember what happened or she will be hanged for multiple murder in 1860s England. He wants her to dredge up what she has carefully repressed. She travels back into her mind to when she first experienced the supernatural hauntings at The Bridge, the creepy ancestral home of her newly deceased husband.

The author creates a terrifying atmosphere in the home. There are no big bangs here, but a slowly encroaching unease, that rattles the nerves, and poisons everyone it touches. My hat is off to you Laura Purcell. Good show!
October 19, 2019
Traveling Sisters Review

I read The Silent Companions as a spooky Halloween read with six of my Traveling Sisters and this was the perfect read that brought out an extra creepiness to our Halloween.

The Silent Companion is creepy good, deliciously creepy and intriguingly creepy that grabbed our attention right from the very beginning and held it right to the end.

Laura Purcell does a good job setting up all the spooky elements for this story. We loved the spooky house, intriguing journals from the past, the hidden secrets and the creepy Silent Companions that had us shuttering with their creepiness.

The story left us wanting to sleep with the lights on and checking over our shoulders as we left a room for those silent figures to pop up. They creeped into our thoughts leaving us with a feeling of fear that really sparked this to the perfect spooky read. I highly recommend finding a comfy chair with just the right amount of light to read and let yourself be immersed in this haunting and unsettling world of delish creepiness.

Thank you to Edelweiss, Penguin Books and Laura Purcell for the opportunity to read and review an advance copy.

Traveling Sisters Reviews can be found on our sister blog:
Profile Image for Debra .
2,411 reviews35.2k followers
March 1, 2018
"You could not explain fear; you could only feel it, roaring through the silence and striking your heart still."

Fans of Gothic, atmospheric Victorian books should look no further - The Silent Companions should be right up your alley! This is Gothic done right! Have you ever read a book where the Author is going for Gothic and just fails to hit the mark? The Author not only hits the mark -she nails it. The crumbling estate is creepy and dreary. The countryside is dripping with atmosphere and dread. The villagers are hostile and refuse to help anyone at the country estate known as the Bridge. This story creeps along as does the feelings of dread and apprehension in this book. This story does jump around a little bit from the present day, to the past, to the not so distant past but it is never confusing. During the book, the reader sees the main character of Elise in a psychiatric hospital being evaluated by a psychiatrist. There has been a fire and Elise is believed to have started it and she is considered to be responsible for deaths which occurred before and during the fire. The reader also gets a glimpse into the year 1635, when a family lives at the country estate. The reader learns what occurred during the time and finally we see Elise moving into the estate and her time spent living in the home.

When Elise marries Rupert Bainbridge, she knows her factory days are behind her. She is going to live a life of wealth and privilege. But he dies unexpectedly a few weeks into their marriage. She travels to the Bridge, her husband's crumbling estate to carry out her pregnancy and is met with servants who are less than happy to work with/for her, her husband's lonely cousin, Sarah, a cat, and strange hissing sounds coming from the Garrett.

Elise decides to explore in hopes of figuring out what is causing the sounds coming from the Garrett. She invites Sarah to come investigate with her. I found it odd that Sarah had never really explored the home before as she was living there before Elise arrived, Sarah was apprehensive but decided to join Elise in this adventure and soon the women were in the Garrett where they found two silent companions and a diary. One of the silent companions had a striking resemblance to Elise. *Silent companions, also known as dummy boards, are painted figures used to amuse and trick guests (I looked them up as I had never heard of them before).

"Did evil have wants and needs? Surely not, surely that would make it too human."

Soon, these silent companions were brought downstairs where they frightened the staff and appear to move and show up in various rooms. To make matters worse, the silent companions seem to multiply and more appear each day. Plus, several members of the household began to see strange things. Each person sees something different from others living in the home and everyone is upset by this except for the head House keeper, Mrs. Holt who has lived at the home for several years. She claims nothing bad has ever happened while she has been at the house. Sarah finds the diary of Anne Bainbridge, the inhabitants of the country estate over 200 years ago. This once prosperous and noble family fell to ruin in 1635, when the queen's horse was killed on their property and Anne herself was burned at the stake for being a witch.

"Did people know when they were going insane? she wondered. Did they feel the weave of their mind ripping apart?"

The house has some history and none of it has been good. Many have died at the estate and the locals believe the house is cursed and they are superstitious about the history surrounding a witch having lived at the home. The longer Elise stays at the home, the more she sees the silent companions and stranger things begin to happen at an alarming rate. Is she hallucinating? Is she insane as her brother believes? Are the ghosts of the past terrorizing the house? Is everything is as it seems?

This book was very good and quite enjoyable! I love books which are atmospheric and evoke feelings of dread and unease. This book, like the silent companions, will creep up on you and have you worrying about things that go bump in the night (or shall I say hiss?). Purcell builds the suspense as her story unfolds. I really enjoyed how all the story-lines/plot timelines came together and brought about the end of the book! Plus, the ending? Was anyone else scratching their head at the end, thinking "what just happened? “I have my theories and think I have it figured out but like that I was left with questions. I feel like I was in the same boat as Elise at the end. Wondering what the hell just happened!?!

Thank you to Penguin books and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

See more of my reviews at www.openbookpost.com
Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews12.7k followers
October 13, 2018
5 Spooky Spectacular Stars!  This was my kind of book and the perfect Halloween read that I read along with six of my Traveling Sisters!  

Traveling Sisters Read with Brenda, Lindsay, Holly, Diane, Dana and PorshaJo

THE SILENT COMPANIONS by LAURA PURCELL is a spooky, eerie, haunting, creepy, and absolutely fantastic gothic ghost story.  I absolutely loved the creepy feel to it and I was immediately drawn into this story right from the very start. There is an underlying sense of foreboding throughout this whole story that had me questioning whether the events that were happening were supernatural, menacing or manipulation.  
LAURA PURCELL delivers a clever, atmospheric, and well-written read here with an intense storyline, the perfect Victorian setting, and great characters.  The tension slowing builds from chapter to chapter with an ending that definitely took me by surprise. I was reading this late into the night with all the lights out except for the backlight on my iPad and I was spooked!  It will be a long time before I forget about those creepy and scary Silent Companions.  I don't think this one was predictable at all but I do think that LAURA PURCELL left it up to us questioning whether the events within the story were in the supernatural nature or not.

To sum it all up it was an engrossing, unsettling, suspenseful, and unforgettable read that had me on the edge of my seat in anticipation and had me on hyper alert watching out for creepy wooden figures. Highly recommend to readers who love a really good ghost story!

Thank you so much to Edelweiss, Penguin Books and Laura Purcell for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book in exchange for a review!!

All of our Traveling Sisters Reviews can be found on our sister blog:
Profile Image for LTJ.
125 reviews63 followers
April 22, 2023
“The Silent Companions” by Laura Purcell started out pretty interesting. It had a solid opening that had me intrigued as to what was going on. Right off the bat, I enjoyed Purcell’s style of writing as this is the first novel I’ve ever read by her. Once the alternating timelines started happening, I did enjoy the Gothic style of writing for the most part.

Before I jump into my review, there is one main trigger warning I wanted to share with everyone. There is cruelty to farm animals in “The Silent Companions” and I can’t say exactly what since my reviews are always 100 percent spoiler free as I don’t want to ruin anything. Don’t worry, no dogs or cats were harmed here, just farm animals and I’ll leave it at that so if that triggers you, please don’t read this novel.

Moving along, at first I didn’t mind the two alternating timelines but once a third one was introduced, I felt it was overkill. Things got confusing, especially introducing even more characters without really focusing on the main one, Elsie. She was interesting to a degree but I felt that more character development with the main characters, especially her, would have made this a better read.

Unfortunately, things started to fizzle out for me the more I kept reading. It felt like a slow burn at first that I was hoping would pay off over time but that wasn’t the case. There are some decent creepy moments here and there but my goodness, this novel has way too much dialogue. The three alternating timelines with the super past, past, and current aspects of this novel just didn’t work out at all for me.

It took way too long to get to those creepy moments and when it did, it wasn’t all that scary. There is decent tension here and there but then things dragged on, the chapters got dull, and I was mostly bored because it was mostly dialogue and not enough unique horror to keep me interested.

I think if this novel stuck to just two alternating timelines, that would have been ideal. It’s a lot to take in with different characters, situations, and events all happening that hits you with too many things to remember in three entirely different timelines. I felt it was distracting with no real main plot and too much about what happened in the past to make sense in the present.

Everything considered, I wanted more character development than dialogue, more horror moments, and fewer pages dedicated to overexplaining and over-describing things that didn’t really need it. It ended up frustrating me as a reader as I wish all those extra pages were dedicated to making the creepy moments more horrific and scarier. You know, bringing more to the table in the grand scheme of things.

The “ghosts” or “companions” that are supposed to be terrifying just weren’t all that scary to me, it’s all little things here and there with nothing that jumped out and grabbed me to where I had to re-read it or anything. I spent way too much time reading dialogue after dialogue that again, bored me. The ending was also lame and very predictable, considering I was hoping it would redeem this novel and blow my mind but it ultimately left me unsatisfied.

I give “The Silent Companions” by Laura Purcell a 2/5 as I thought her writing was good but this wasn’t a true horror novel to me. I felt it was a gothic family story that just so happened to be in a haunted house that was supposed to have a scary ghost element that just didn’t deliver. It takes way too long to get to any of the scary parts with the majority of this novel being endless dialogue, repeated dialogue/situations, and just not anything I’d recommend. It left much to be desired as I wanted more horror and less talking. I also think having three timelines happening in a single novel was a mistake without any specific timeline that shined due to having so many different characters and events. Awe well, onto the next one.
Profile Image for Lindsay L.
677 reviews1,320 followers
July 9, 2018
3.5 stars! This was a gripping, atmospheric and creepy tale!

This story involves an old haunted mansion, a woman living in an insane asylum, ghosts, an old hidden diary and three intertwining timelines. Add all of these up and you get one spooky, edge-of-your-seat horror story. The author, Laura Purcell, did a fantastic job creating a vivid and creepy atmosphere pulling the reader right into the frightening setting. I felt shivers creeping up my back a few times while reading this eerie and disturbing story.

The characters were well-developed – I appreciated every one of them and how they fit into this sinister tale. I enjoyed each timeline – every story carried an important piece of this mysterious puzzle. While I enjoyed the atmosphere and uniqueness of this story, I had a hard time suspending my disbelief a few times. I still have some lingering questions relating to how a couple events transpired.

I liked the sense of vagueness left at the end of the novel. The story was left open to the readers interpretation which suited the novel completely.

This was an excellent choice for a Traveling Sister Read! I enjoyed reading this along with my “sisters” Brenda, Norma, Diane S, Dana and Holly B. They helped me get through the frighteningly creepy parts, although I still may have to sleep with the lights on for a while.

A big thank you to Edelweiss, Frontlist and Laura Purcell for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!!

To find this review, along with the other Traveling Sister Read reviews, please visit Norma and Brenda’s fabulous blog at:

Profile Image for Dem.
1,190 reviews1,128 followers
October 1, 2019
4.5 Stars
(Great atmospheric read for October)

What an intriguing, atmospheric and scarily good story which had the hairs standing on the back of my neck.

A chilling period piece set in two time frames 1860s and 1630s which I loved from page one. I was lucky enough to purchase a hard copy of this novel and cover is beautifully illustrated and unique. This is certainly a book I will be recommending to friends but I am not loaning this one out as its a bookshelf keeper.
image: This is why for me kindle and audible just don't compare to holding an actual printed copy.
A genuinely suspenseful and really quite chilling tale set in an old crumbling Country estate, newly married and 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. For 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...,

I loved the eerie atmosphere created by the author and every time I picked this book up off my bedside locker I was so looking forward to getting back to the characters and the story. A book of intrigue and secrets and just a good old fashioned ghost story that chills as well as entertains.

Loved every moment spent with this novel as this is the book I needed to pull me out of my recent reading slump.
I think readers who enjoyed The Thirteenth Tale The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton The Forgotten Garden or even This House is Haunted This House is Haunted by John Boyne may enjoy this novel also.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,778 reviews14.2k followers
November 10, 2017
An asylum, a menacing house, journals found from the past, throw in Gothic and Victorian and I am all over it. Elsie, pregnant with her first child, travels to her husband's estate, called the Bridge. It is the middle of the 1800s and her husband has just died from unknown causes. Her story is a rags to riches one, daughter of a man who owned a match factory, she met and married her wealthy husband when he came to invest in the factory. Elsie herself has secrets held from her past, and the house she finds is not what she expected.

Was reading this on Halloween, and it was just creepy enough without being absolutely terrifying. The silent companions, things I had never heard of, make an appearance and keep making appearances despite the fact that they are gotten rid of time and time again. The journals from the past reveal the dabbling in of witchcraft and of terrible wrongs committed. As a reader I was never quite sure what was real and what was imagined. If what Elsie was seeing and experiencing was in her mind or an actual happening. Loved the Gothic, forboding style of this, the constant tension, and the mix between past and present. Other interesting characters are presented and one will have an important part in the twist at the end.

This was a sisters read and many of us had questions at the end. Trying to figure out exactly what happened, but I often think a book that causes one to question what they just read, is the mark of an interesting and worthy read.

ARC from Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Misty Marie Harms.
559 reviews412 followers
February 17, 2022
Why did it take me so long to read this wonderful book? It has history, mystery, horror, suspense, creepy cutout dolls, and a silent evil child. Soon as the companions entered the story, I was beyond scared. Why? I hate dolls. I hate anything that resembles dolls. Those weird staring eyes and painted faces. Just no. My oldest daughter terrorized me with her model wooden doll as a teenager until it mysterious caught on fire.

Did I know what was going to happen at the end? Yep, I pretty much guessed it. However, I didn't care. I was so involved in the story and these characters, I wanted more. Poor Anne created a monster that cursed her own family, didn't she? Highly recommend. Seriously go now!
Profile Image for Holly  B .
849 reviews2,010 followers
December 25, 2018
The Silent Companions is a gothic, foreboding, spooky ghost story. It is very well written and I especially enjoyed the setting of the crumbling mansion (named The Bridge) in England. The story alternates between events of 1635 to the present day of 1865.

It begins with Elsie in an asylum, with a creepy attendant and a young doctor who exclaims, “I am here to decide your fate.” He wasn’t joking.

The history of the house is told and it is a strange one. It was left empty during and after the Civil War, until family started to return, but no one stayed for very long. Were skeletons buried under the house?

When Elsie moves back into the house, she begins to “experience” it. She describes her bed as “cold and sinister”, she finds mysterious items, hears hissing in the night, walks on a wobbling staircase and the house seems to be “watching her” along with the lurking servants.

Just who is going mad here?

A spookalicious read with a ending that made me gasp!

For fans of gothic, spooky/creepy historical fiction, haunted houses and the paranormal!

Thanks to Edelweiss for my ARC. Rating 4/5 stars. I read it on Halloween night and it made it even more spooky!
Profile Image for Tammy.
522 reviews437 followers
September 18, 2018
This novel presents the disturbing occurrences that happen to Anne Bainbridge in 1635 and Elsie Bainbridge two hundred years later. Interspersed between the two time periods are scenes from an asylum. There is a back story here with hints cleverly scattered throughout that may indicate Elsie’s state of mind.

If you like well written, atmospheric gothic novels (and I do) you may rest assured that there are gothic tropes galore. Isolation in a crumbling estate? Yes, and I continue to read. Superstitious villagers? You bet and I go on. Confusion over what is real and unreal? Of course, and I’m eating it up with a spoon. The subjugation of women? It’s part and parcel of this genre and I continue to to read. Nightmares and dreams? Naturally. I’m still reading here. And then...and then... the ending. It was two sentences too long and hit me with a resounding thud.
Profile Image for Melisa.
324 reviews514 followers
March 26, 2018
A completely creeptastic tale that had me jumping at the slightest sounds - warning: read with all the lights on!

This a dual timeline tale, alternating between the 1800’s and 1600’s, all based around a gothic castle in England with a long, tragic history. As the story unfolds, you learn more about what has occurred to put the haunted in the house.

This is a great, spooky tale, one you’ll absolutely have to suspend disbelief, but oh how great it is once you do! It does get a little gruesome at some points which was a little outside of my comfort zone, but then again, I’m a big wimp so there’s that.

Definitely recommend to historical fiction fans who are in the mood for a good scare.

Thank you to Netgalley, Laura Purcell and Penguin Books for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

3.5 stars rounded up.

Profile Image for Beata.
749 reviews1,153 followers
October 30, 2020
So many stellar reviews have been written by my GR Friends that I feel I will refrain from repeating all good things that they have said about this book. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and have become Mr Purcell's fan ever since.
Profile Image for Caroline.
225 reviews119 followers
October 1, 2020
This is the perfect ghost story to keep you up at night. A Victorian Gothic novel told in flashbacks from an insane asylum. It jumps back and forth from the 19th to the 17th century; weaving a dark, sinister tale that makes your blood run cold, keeping you gripped in suspense right up to the horrific ending! I loved it!!
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,320 reviews2,141 followers
May 27, 2019
This one is a bit spooky! Not horrific really - it would not keep me awake at night- but it is definitely on the creepy side.

Elsie, pregnant and widowed, finds herself living in a gothic style manor house with unfriendly villagers, useless servants, one unlikable 'friend' and a whole heap of silent companions. These are just figures painted on boards but they have a tendency to move around and cause unpleasant events. They reminded me of the stone angels on Doctor Who which also only moved when you were not looking at them! As I said, spooky!

The story is told from three POVs, Elsie as she is currently, in an asylum and disfigured by fire, Elsie at The Bridge in 1865 and Anne at The Bridge in 1635. Events start off pretty slowly and the book did not grab my attention at first but I kept reading and eventually it paid off. The ending was clever and with hindsight it was obvious that there had been a million clues I had overlooked!

Altogether an entertaining read although I think I slightly preferred this author's book The Corset.
Profile Image for Sofia.
231 reviews6,955 followers
April 16, 2022
This book is every Gothic fiction lover's dream. A crumbling haunted mansion, "silent companions" — painted wooden figures with features so realistic they could be human — whose eyes track Elsie when her back is turned...

Elsie Bainbridge, suspected of murder and arson, is locked in asylum. In her past, she is a recent widow and a new resident of the mysterious estate she inherited. Her childhood is full of tragedy and her future remains uncertain. When she uncovers a silent companion behind a locked door in her new home, along with a diary detailing the life of a child named Hetta, she begins to notice subtle changes in the atmosphere around her.

The Silent Companions is utterly genius. The suspense is unbelievable; this book is literally unputdownable. The gradual buildup and the carefully placed reveals made my heart race like almost nothing I've read before. It's unnerving and chilling and feverish and so wickedly twisted. This is a must-read for all fans of Gothic horror and books that deserve to be called modern classics.

5 stars
Profile Image for Emma.
986 reviews1,001 followers
June 30, 2017
A genuinely unsettling gothic story set in a ramshackle country house, this book kept me up late reading, then the rest of the night listening for strange noises. I knew it had its claws into me when I returned to my room and freaked out about an inexplicably open cupboard door: who did it? I was the only one in the house... Spoiler: I got a towel out, had forgotten, and accidentally left it like that. Phew. But that's precisely the kind of split second reaction you get after reading this book. It's beyond atmospheric, so well written it seeps deep into you, affecting the way you think and feel. It's compelling and unnerving in equal measure, with an ending that could go either way: is there a mundane, human answer to this mystery? Or are the Silent Companions as supernatural as they appear? I won't ruin anything for you, but I thought it ended exactly the way it should, clever and scary.

Serious love for this spooky read. This author goes straight into my 'must read' list.

ARC via Netgalley
Profile Image for Juli.
1,897 reviews493 followers
March 20, 2018
This book is an incredible, creepy-cool story! Two women living 200 years apart experience evil in the Bainbridge ancestral home. In the 1860's, Elsie comes to the house. She is a widow. Her husband recently died, and she feels lost. In the 1660's, Anne Bainbridge lives in the house. Her daughter Hetta is unable to speak and Anne feels incredibly guilty for using her herbal knowledge to bring about the girl's birth. She firmly believes her actions caused the girl to be born with a malformed tongue. Both women come under the spell of the Silent Companions.....wooden effigies painted like people. At first they seem beautiful, more lifelike than mere paintings....but then, they move. The horror of what lurks in the Bainbridge home is truly chilling.

What an awesomely dark Victorian horror novel! The suspense and horror build steadily until the very end. Descriptions of the Silent Companions are detailed and unnerving. Just the idea of fumbling around in an attic by candlelight with those things in the house.....supremely scary! The ending smacked me right in the face....I didn't see it coming. Twisted, demented, and frightening. The intro to the book tells readers not to read this story at night....I should have listened. There were a couple times it really creeped me out. I loved it!

This book would make an awesome horror movie!

I definitely recommend this book to any reader who likes gothic horror, ghost stories or darkly creepy tales.

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Penguin Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
Profile Image for Helene Jeppesen.
688 reviews3,630 followers
September 4, 2018
What an eerie story! Be aware that if you have a fear of wooden dolls with eyes that follow you when you move around, this is probably not a book for you (or maybe it’s exactly the book for you, then!) :-)
Elsie is a resident in an asylum, and in the very first chapter she encounters her new doctor who is set to find out what turned her crazy and unable to speak a word. From that chapter onwards, we are taken back in time and learn that Elsie, then a recent widow, has taken over her husband’s abandoned house in the countryside - a house that comes with its creepy share of mysterious events and creepy dolls.
This was one of those books that I had a hard time rating. Throughout my reading, I felt like it was on the verge of a 4-star-read, but I also felt like the full potential was somehow missing. However, having now finished the book I’m confident that it’s a 4-star-read. It’s an uncanny gothic novel that will mess with your mind (and maybe provide you with a few sleepless nights), and it’s the perfect autumnal read for when you’re in the mood for a psychological horror story that will creep you out but that also messes with your mind and takes its share of twists and turns.
I liked it in the end, but I think you have to reach that end to fully appreciate this intricate, however amazing story.
Profile Image for Susan.
2,693 reviews595 followers
October 3, 2017
This is a deeply unsettling, wonderfully atmospheric and truly creepy novel. We first meet Elsie Bainbridge as a patient in an asylum, where she is suspected of murder. The progressive Dr Shepherd encourages her to write down her story, as she is refusing, or unable, to speak. What emerges is her recounting how she married Rupert Bainbridge, largely to help save her brother’s match factory. However, although the marriage was one of convenience, Elsie found herself surprisingly happy to be the wife of her new husband. Sadly, though, she shortly finds herself both pregnant and widowed; sent by her brother to stay at her husband’s country house, The Bridge.

Forget any ideas of a country idyll though. The Bridge huddles miserably in the muddy countryside, neglected and forlorn; surrounded by a straggle of cottages, whose inhabitants seem to view the big house with suspicion. As locals refuse to work there, Elsie finds housekeeper Edna Holt and two maids, plus she is accompanied by Sarah, a poor relation of her husband, who is acting as her companion.

Unsettled and lonely, Elsie begins to hear noises at night. Exploring with Sarah, the pair uncover some strange wooden Dutch ‘companions,’ which are lifelike, cut out paintings. Initially Elsie thinks they are interesting and unusual, but soon the companions seem to have a life of their own… Along with the companions, Sarah uncovers a diary from Anne Bainbridge, her ancestor, written two hundred years before. Anne, and her husband, Josiah, are thrilled that Charles I and his wife, Henrietta Maria, are to visit their house. However, Josiah is keen that their mute daughter, Hetta, is kept away from the royal visitors. Tragedies also seem to follow the house throughout the years, leaving a sense of deep disquiet and unease among the locals.

This is a clever, intelligent novel, with a good storyline and characters. It is eerie, wonderfully well written and you are unsure whether events are down to the supernatural or whether something else is behind the strange events in the house. An excellent novel and a wonderfully creepy read. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.
Profile Image for Carolyn (on vacation).
2,245 reviews641 followers
October 4, 2017
This is a very creepy, gothic tale. Set in Victorian England, the book opens with Elsie Bainbridge, mute and medicated in a hospital recovering from some unspeakable murders of which she is accused. Unable to speak after all that has happened to her she is encouraged by one of the doctors to write down her story.

The scene is set when Elsie, recently married and soon after widowed, is sent to her husband's crumbling estate to bury him and then wait out the birth of her baby. Apart from Sarah, a cousin of her husband, sent to keep her company, only a housekeeper and two maids live in the house. It is cold and decrepit and Elsie hears strange noises at night (getting creepy yet?). The local village and church are also very poor and run down with the villagers too fearful to work on the estate . Added to this setting are some strange full sized 'silent companions', trompe l'oeil figures painted on free standing wooden boards to resemble children and maids. Discovered in a locked attic and brought into the main house by Sarah and Elsie these have an uncanny way of watching people and don't seem to stay where they're put and aren't easily destroyed (definitely getting creepy?). Now add some old diaries written some 200 years before describing the horrific events that lead to the start of the Bainbridge family's downfall and link to the nightmares that cause Elsie changing from a confident young woman to the sad, broken shell we see at the start of the book, and the result is a very atmospheric, scary tale.

With thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for a copy of the book to read and review

Note: Examples of 'Silent companions' or 'dummy boards' can be found on the web if anyone is interested. They were popular in the 17th & 18th century and used as house decoration.
Profile Image for Caroline .
429 reviews594 followers
December 21, 2022

There’s a lot to like about Laura Purcell’s chilling, slightly gothic The Silent Companions. The cast of characters is small and the plot tight despite three time lines: one in the story's present day and two in flashback (taking place in 1865 and 1635). I was deeply impressed by Purcell's deft handling of the time lines so that the two flashbacks unfold in perfect parallel.

The story is primarily about Elsie Bainbridge in 1865, pregnant and newly widowed, who moves into the house her late husband was in the midst of renovating when he died. The house has baggage; it spooks the locals and is rumored to have bodies buried in the yard. Shortly after moving in, Elsie and her cousin-in-law are feeling spooked too.

The Silent Companions is a historical twist on the haunted-doll horror cliché. Purcell researched 17th-century European "silent companion" wooden figures to create her villains and solidify the historical setting. Despite their decided creepiness, these life-size figures became popular home decor, so when a character in 1635 brings some home, it isn't so strange. But in the 1865 setting, these same companions are strange--and evil.

I enjoyed almost everything about this book. The Silent Companions has fire, murder, suicide, shady characters, witchcraft, and a depressing town. Its historical setting and interior of the nightmarish house are well drawn; the main characters are sympathetic; the villains are frightening but not outrageously horrific. Evil-doll stories have the potential to devolve into campiness, but that doesn't happen here.

What is unfortunately clichéd is the

Pacing is even and quick, for the most part. The protagonist had a troubled relationship with her parents, and this isn't fully developed. Here the story slows a little as it delves into her psychology. This back story isn't needed at all; however, it takes up so little space that it doesn't detract from the immersive reading experience.

I only wish Purcell had answered all questions. Toward the end, many pieces fall into place, but the plot still has a few small holes. Additionally, readers will need to read more carefully in the last few chapters as the mystery resolves very quickly with convoluted details. Nevertheless, the final pages are superb, and the last page wraps up this eerie tale in a satisfying way.
Profile Image for Sarah.
323 reviews152 followers
April 10, 2023
The Silent Companions is a Victorian gothic story done well. Yes, it’s quite slow in pace as expected, but the creeping sense of dread and the general atmosphere are built up in a satisfying way. I like when gothic books give a general sense of unease.

This is story of the troubled life of Elsie Bainbridge. It skips between her past;
where a young, pregnant, Elsie moves into her deceased husband’s manor - The Bridge. She has inherited his fortune and, weirdly, his cousin.. she misses him and almost curses the fact that he has left her a widow.
And her present; Elsie Bainbridge is left mute and has disfiguring scars all over her body. This was caused by a house fire that she apparently started, and she faces being hung for arson.
What drove Elsie to start the fire? Did she even start it? What happened to Elsie Bainbridge to end up this way? Did she lose grip on her sanity or did these silent, wooden, companions cause harm?
Her ancestor, Anne Bainbridge’s diary is found and there are entries from this throughout. Her story with her mute daughter Hetta was where the true gothic horror in The Silent Companions lay the most, in my opinion.
”My baby. Rotten to the core. Every memory of her childhood takes on a sordid, shameful appearance. Was she a demon from the very womb? But of course she was. What else could she be, at once unnatural and misbegotten?”

I currently have far too many physical and kindle copies of books. It’s nice to have an extensive library, a never-ending tbr list, but it can also feel quite overwhelming at times to decide what to read next. So, this is a group read with the Horror Aficionados group. Usually I save this type of story for cold winter evenings, but end up finding other things to read and forget 😅

4 ghostly stars 👻
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