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The House of Whispers: A Novel Paperback – June 9, 2020
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"Purcell excels at creating a spooky Gothic ambience... A dark and unsettling novel for lovers of Rebecca and Jane Eyre." —Kirkus
"Purcell has a sure storytelling touch, a command of atmosphere and a keen eye for the telling details of social history. Oh, and she stores up some satisfying and suitably macabre final revelations." —The Guardian
"A Victorian tale replete with laudanum, tuberculosis and possibly fairies... a clever, creepy read." —Sunday Express, Best New Thrillers
"Brilliantly atmospheric and chilling... I raced through the pages hardly daring to find out what would happen next. Laura’s characters and the world they inhabit are compelling, unsettling and richly drawn. A fabulous tale!" —Ruth Hogan, author of The Keeper of Lost Things
Praise for The Poison Thread
"Uncanny... Satisfying." —New York Times Book Review
"[A] well-wrought chiller.” —Wall Street Journal
"Suspenseful... This smart and sophisticated historical thriller will appeal to fans of Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith and Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace." —Publishers Weekly
“A dark, gothic story… Purcell alternates character narratives to question motives, reality, and truth on a ‘bumpy’ ride full of violence and death.” —Booklist
"A fascinating mystery that’s rich in disquieting detail and atmosphere.” —BookPage
About the Author
- Publisher : Penguin Books (June 9, 2020)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0143135538
- ISBN-13 : 978-0143135531
- Item Weight : 8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.13 x 0.6 x 7.74 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #53,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I jumped at the chance to read this because I loved the author's previous two offerings, The Silent Companions and The Poison Thread. Laura Purcell has become my "go to" author for gothic historical fiction. However, this book fell just a bit short for me compared to those previous two.
When I first delved into this book I felt the warm and cozy familiarity of a similar journey on a horse driven wagon that reminded me of her first book. A woman utilizing the moniker of Hester Why was escaping her former position where she attended to one Lady Rose. Pretty, rose-cheeked, young Lady Rose "married up", but was trying her best to settle in to a privileged life, even though her mother-in-law acted like she was the lady of the house instead. Rose had previously miscarried, and it was very important for her to produce an heir. Hester was the kind of person who needed to be needed. When she served as Maid to Lady Rose, she was a constant at Rose's side, but there was a simmering diabolical gene running through her veins that could emerge when she felt she was being brushed aside. Hester had served in other positions prior to Rose's where her charges met a tragic end. It was almost as if her caring too much for others would meet a poisonous outcome. Perhaps this was why Hester suffered from alcoholism, to numb the pain of the loved ones left in her wake. It was at this juncture of travelling to work for a Miss Pinecroft that the book began. Hester felt the need to drag herself far away from London to Cornwall and Morvoran House, set on a cliff surrounded by water and caves. In her trunk, she secreted a news article posted by her last employer accusing her of stealing his wife's porcelain and gold snuffbox. Her major problem is functioning without access to gin, and she'll even make due with laudanum if need be. I actually enjoyed this character more than any other in the book, despite her checkered past and addictive proclivities.
At a certain point the book propelled itself backward 40 years at the same location of Morvoran House. I didn't like this portion of the story as much as the others. I felt a lag in my interest, although it served to inform the more current timeline at Morvoran House. It concerned a physician who was trying to find a cure for consumption, and was utilizing the caves for its proximity to sea air as a form of treatment. He had lost his wife and other children to the disease, only leaving his daughter Louise who acted as his nursing assistant. The doctor had recruited some prisoners suffering from consumption as his patients.
Basically, I experienced three locales throughout this book. One was where Hester (using her real name Esther Stevens) was Maid to Lady Rose. The second was when she was fleeing that situation in near criminal disgrace to work at Morvoran House in the role of a nursing caregiver to the elderly Miss Pinecroft. This woman was very thin and quiet, suffering some effects of a stroke. She just sat in a chair for hours and hours in a very cold room with all this blue and white bone china on display around the room, which Hester was going to have to clean. Another very weird lady in the house was a woman named Creeda who watched over a 40 year old developmentally delayed child/woman named Rosewyn who had two different colored eyes, carried around a doll and wore her dresses inside out. There was a lot of fearful talk of fairies who lived down in the caves and could steal you. There was a special lock on Rosewyn's door that changed a number every time it was unlocked. Creeda's family actually owned the bone china company that manufactured all the china around the house. At night, the shadows that would dance upon it from the moon and the fierce waves could make the painted figures play tricks on your eyes. The third setting was 40 years ago at the same house with the doctor and his daughter.
It's not a good sign when I'm hoping I can finally get through that last hour my kindle is showing me I have to go until it's finished. The book's beginning held great promise, so I was disappointed with the book's progression. There were a lot of really strange things going on with supposed fairies, bone china that sometimes changed pictures, sounds of drips and disembodied singing, that all added up to a lot of hogwash to me. My favorite part of the book was when Hester was first welcomed upon arrival into the warmest part of the house, the kitchen- fussed over and made to warm up with freshly baked bread and hot tea. I also loved hearing about how they made hot chocolate each morning for Miss Pinecroft. I guess you could say my favorite part of the book was in the kitchen! Although I was slightly disappointed with this offering, I will definitely look forward to reading her next one.
Thank you to the publisher Penguin Books for providing an advance reader copy via Edelweiss.
The story is truly gothic, with a creepy castle set on a high and barren mountain on the Cornish shoreline.
The story is set in two time periods and switches back and forth throughout the telling. Many of the characters exist in both time periods, their past and their present.
There is an element of paranormal or is it a figment of fevered imagination? Just what you expect from a true gothic story.
It was an interesting read. I didn’t find it scary but rather, something that made my imagination go in directions that the author didn’t take. I wanted to know more about the characters and how they fared in their future.
I was provided a digital advance reader copy of this book by the publisher via Edelweiss.
Esther Stevens had been forced to flee to Cornwall, "a place teetering on the edge of the map...". "Everything I treasure can be contained within my battered trunk". Thank goodness my porcelain is not broken! " Esther appeared respectably dressed in Lady Rose's discarded clothes when she took the mail coach to Exeter where she was then picked up by pony cart and driven to Cornwall. Gin filled her hip flask...memories must be blurred and suppressed.
19th Century Cornwall. "Morvoren House stands sentinel on the crest of the cliff...". "Heavy tasseled curtains conceal the view from the window, but they cannot muffle the sound of the sea". Hester Why, the assumed name of Esther Stevens, had imagined "a blue serene ocean, not a dark, frightening 'cauldron of demons'." She was hired as maid and nurse for the 60 year old mistress of the house, Miss Louise Pinecroft, "a frail figure of a woman...palsy had marked her with a lopsided look". Miss Pinecroft sat in a wing back chair, no carpet or fire to warm the frigid room, speechlessly staring at her china collection. She warned Hester to keep the china nice. Miss Pinecroft uttered, "...must...keep watch...Bad things...happen...when I sleep." Off balance and hazy from her addiction to gin and laudanum, Hester must navigate the eerie house where candles flicker out, floorboards creak, and low bewitching humming resonates. Why does Miss Pinecroft have to be locked in her bedchamber at night? Why does her ward, Rosewyn wear her garments inside out and carry a doll at all times?
"The House of Whispers" by Laura Purcell is an atmospheric, historical Gothic novel incorporating Cornish folklore as well as exploring the underground caves thought to possess healing powers though fresh air, sea bathing and exercise. The lives and secrets of two women, Hester Why (Esther Stevens) and Miss Louise Pinecroft unfold. Author Purcell maintains the spook factor throughout this novel of 19th Century superstition, fairy hauntings and "strange things on the moors". Highly recommended.
Thank you Penguin Books and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.