The Silent Companions – Laura Purcell

Title – The Silent Companions

Author – Laura Purcell

Published – October 2017

Genre – Historical fiction

This was a book that I’d heard a lot of people raving about and when I saw the hardback on the shelves it was so beautiful that I added it to my Christmas list (and received it!). And now I’m in two minds whether or not to publish a review. It didn’t come from a publisher so I feel no pressure to be positive but I don’t mean to be negative for the sake of it. I still feel it’s worth saying what I thought because there are comparisons to be drawn with other similar books that I’ve read.

The book is set (mainly) in 1865. A little while in the future Mrs Bainbridge is in an asylum and a doctor persuades her to write down her account of the events in an effort to understand what led to her incarceration. In 1865 Elsie is newly married and newly widowed. The death of her husband has taken place at his family home, The Bridge, an old and crumbling mansion where her story starts, with shades of Rebecca. This part of the book is very much a chilling, gothic story but quite slow to develop and it didn’t have the atmosphere of something like The Unseeing. One of the issues I had was when a third timeline was introduced after diaries dating back to 1635, written by a previous owner of the house, are found in a mysterious garret. I then found the shifts through the three periods a struggle and I couldn’t take to the character who had written the diaries.

The silent companions of the title are a set of mysterious wooden figures that, sometimes, resemble some of the characters in the household and then appear where they aren’t expected. I had a quick ‘google’ to see a real example – Part of my problem was that these didn’t seem as sinister to me as they should have done. By coincidence it’s not long since I read The Coffin Path and that was where I first came across these unusual figures – and these I did find creepy, perhaps if the order in which I read the books had been reversed I might have felt differently.

When the threads of the different timelines are resolved and there is a final climax to the story I was impressed by the turn of events.  It’s a shame that I didn’t find the book as atmospheric and chilling as others did.







  1. I’m very glad you published your candid opinion. That’s the whole point of a review, in my opinion, and I give you credit for doing so. I’ve heard a lot about this one, too, ‘though I’ve not (yet) read it. I’m glad to have your views in the mix.

    1. Thanks Margot. I do sometimes wonder if the order in which you read books makes a difference – all those other books that you weigh a new one up against.

  2. I have been considering this book but I am always worried about Victorian novels like this as they don’t always live up to expectation. Then again, I haven’t read one for a long time so maybe I’ll enjoy it!

  3. I’ve not read the other book you mention but I am intrigued to now that you’ve mentioned that this isn’t as chilling. This was the first time I’ve seen these figures used in a story, and having seen a lot in real life in big country houses I can see why they make a good horror tale. I think the aspect which was eeriest for me is the appearance of more and more companions and their movements throughout the house. The fact that you never actually see them move (except the occasional eye) but if you turn away and then back they might have moved positions!

    1. If I could put my finger on why this didn’t scare me and the other book did I think I’d move to writing instead of reviewing, but I know plenty of reviewers who have found it a scary read. There is a ‘monster’ in Dr Who called ‘Weeping Angels’ and they they can only move when no other living creature is looking at them, so the idea is the same as the companions suddenly appearing – but I found them really frightening. I guess we all bring our own points of view to what we read.

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