Bone China by Laura Purcell

I have read and adored Purcell’s two previous books, The Silent Companions and The Corset so I had very high hopes for Bone China and it certainly does not disappoint. This is Victorian Gothic at its absolute best. Once again Laura Purcell has written a masterpiece which I found I couldn’t put down. I became so invested in the character’s lives that I had to keep reading to find out what happened to them next.

Set in Cornwall, the story centres around Hester Why, who is quite literally running away from her previous life, she has taken on the role of nurse to a frail and vulnerable Miss Pinecroft of Morvoren House. As Hester arrives she quickly learns that all is not as it seems, her patient is silent and quite clearly disturbed by something in her mind. She very rarely moves and spends her days sat in a freezing cold room with the curtains drawn staring at her collection of fine china. Despite Hester’s pleas Miss Pinecroft will not discuss the troubles on her mind or change her ways. The peculiar behaviour of the residents at Morvoren is not limited to Miss Pinecroft as Hester quickly discovers. The others are governed by a bizarre set of rituals they hope will keep the fairies away. Including lines of salt on the floor, bible balls and keeping the ward of Miss Pinecroft as a child, despite the fact she is a fully grown woman. She may be alcohol and laudanum dependent but Hester knows strange goings on when she sees them and something very strange is happening here.

The story flashes back 40 years to when Miss Pinecroft lived at Morvoren with her father who, after watching his wife and children die from consumption, has made it his life’s purpose to find a cure for this terrible disease. He enlists patients from a local prison who are at various stages of the illness and treats them in the caves below Morvoren thinking that fresh sea air will benefit them. It is the results of this medical experiment that has repercussions that are still being felt at Morvoren . Is what happened within those caves and to the patients still so harrowing in the mind of Miss Pinecroft that she can’t speak of it?

It is evident that both Hester and Miss Pinecroft have pasts they are trying to hide from and the way the story unravels these stories is magnificent. The story is tense and exquisitely written, you feel like you are in the room with the characters and that you at one with them.

Haverscroft by S.A. Harris.

Firstly, wow, just wow!!!

What a book this is, what an amazing creepy tense story the author has created within these pages.

I am by no means a horror fan but I had heard great things about this book so I thought I would be brave and give it a go. If you feel you are brave enough to visit Haverscroft House then you are in for an unsettling time. Haverscroft is the new home for Mark and Kate Keeling and their nine-year-old twins Tom and Sophie. They have uprooted their life in London and relocated, at Marks insistence, to Haverscroft. Mark and Kate’s marriage appears to be floundering, Kates recent mental breakdown and infidelity with Mark’s colleague is putting strain on the couple. You would think relocating to a more rural setting for more family time would be just what they needed but Mark is still spending copious amounts of time in London working whilst Kate is left at Haverscroft and all the strange goings on.

It does not take long for the unnerving tapping noises and the inevitable creaking and groaning to begin. Kate does everything within her power to protect her young family whilst trying to convince her husband she is not going mad. There are plenty of twists and turns and many secrets held within the walls of Haverscroft and the Keeling’s marriage. Kate’s main focus is keeping her family safe, but can she do this when Haverscroft’s past looms large over them and threatens to destroy everything?

This book is an absolute page turner, it didn’t take me long to read, in fact, I devoured it. I found it unsettling, unnerving and at times downright creepy. The tension is palpable, not just within the behaviour of the house itself but within the character’s relationships. The suspense is built throughout the book right until the very last page.

I have been recommending this book to anyone who will listen and I look forward to reading more from this author.

The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd

This is an intriguing and well written debut novel from Alyson Rudd which tells the story of an ordinary girl growing up in the seventies, ordinary in as far as she sees steel sunbeam lights that no other person can. It transpires that these lights are gateways to parallel worlds that Lauren can glimpse into, some of them include her family and home. When Lauren is killed in a tragic accident aged 13, she wakes up in one of these worlds. The thread of the story follows Lauren as she dies again with the cycle repeating itself across several decades. In each new life Lauren has a new role, daughter, wife etc. However, there is one constant throughout all of her lives, the disappearance of Peter Stanning, which runs in tandem to Lauren’s story, does his disappearance have any connections to Lauren’s deaths?

Despite the varying lives of Lauren and the differing time periods, the book was easy to follow, Rudd has written it so well that the transitions are seamless. The book deals with varying levels of loss and grief as Lauren’s role changes and this is dealt with sensitivity and is beautifully written by Rudd.

Comparisons are inevitable between this book and Kate Atkinson’s ‘Life After Life’ but I feel Rudd’s novel is good enough to stand alone. This is an emotionally charged and well written book with a fascinating storyline.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins Publishers for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey

Set in 15th century Somerset, the small village of Oakham provides the backdrop to Harvey’s historical crime thriller. It is a hapless village, cut off without a bridge, on the cusp of disaster as the threat of a monastery coming and swallowing the village up is real. However, the village has more pressing immediate matters to face. It’s wealthiest resident has disappeared, presumed drowned. But, was he pushed, or, worse still, did he commit suicide without seeking redemption for his soul? The story centres around the local priest, John Reve. He is challenged by the Rural Dean to seek out the truth, in the hope that the residents will confess as they approach Lent. The problem that Reve faces is that there are a number of people willing and ready to confess to the murder, amongst other things. Each resident’s back story is interesting and insightful, as is Reve’s. I found that I engaged well with each character and became involved with their stories. The book provides an insightful account of the many ‘sins’ people felt they had committed, things that we would find ridiculous today, by doing this Harvey provides the reader with a good insight in to religious beliefs in 15th century England.

The story is well written. It starts with the discovery of the death by local lad Herry Carter who is the first to raise suspicion with Father Reve. From then on in the story works back to the actual ‘crime’. It took me a while to see that this was happening but I can see that it was a very clever way of telling the story. It is deftly written and Harvey’s use of language is almost poetic. That said, there were times when I really had to concentrate on what I was reading, I found the words almost tripped over themselves to be read. That said, it is an engaging story and one that I would definitely recommend.