Hester Why is running from her past.
Louise Pinecroft is waiting for resolution.
But in Morvoren House, no one gets what they want.
Bone China is the latest novel from Laura Purcell – a modern queen of gothic fiction. Fans of her sinister story-telling in The Silent Companions will be delighted with this new tale, set against an exposed cliff edge in Cornwall, full of apprehension and ominous goings-on.
‘’The wind howls and ravens about the house, crashing the branches of the ash trees together. The waves roar back. They are wild creatures, these elements. They will tear one another apart.’’
The story follows two main characters, Hester and Louise. We begin the tale with Hester, fleeing from a past life that threatens to overwhelm her throughout the story. Purcell gives nothing away easily and Hester’s past unfurls in the telling of the tale, memories both good and bad weaving through. Purcell is a master of suspense, giving just enough to fuel imagination, which will have you racing through to get some answers.
We first meet Louise, or Miss Pinecroft as we know her initially, a bit later, when Hester takes up a position as her nurse. Louise is afflicted with palsy and spends her days in a freezing cold room, staring at a collection of china as if her life depended on her watchfulness. Purcell’s description of the room, house and strange behaviour is brilliantly unsettling and will have you looking at your plates with new suspicion as you read. We also get flashbacks of Louise’s life as a much younger woman, 40 years previously when she first arrived at Morvoren House. Her past is littered with tragedy – losing her mother and siblings to consumption and watching her father, a doctor, unravel in pursuit of a cure. I loved the juxtaposition of medical backgrounds and scientific thinking of both Miss Pinecroft and Hester against the superstitions that creep into their lives when they reach Cornwall.
The landscape also plays a huge part in the story, taking on a persona of its own. The wild, unforgiving elements are reminiscent of Du Morier and Bronte, adding to the creepiness throughout. Purcell’s descriptions will have you shivering and tucking your blanket firmly around you. The setting of Cornwall is important as well, not just a backdrop, but as a vehicle of superstition. Folklore of faeries, mermaids and pixies is rife, and has you looking over your shoulder as you read. The sense of being watched is woven throughout alongside a feeling of something just out of sight or reach, pushing you off-balance as you try to figure out what’s really going on.
Purcell had a lot to live up to after her first two books, but Bone China doesn’t disappoint. It’s deliciously creepy and gripping, and I’d highly recommend the read.
Bone China is published by Bloomsbury Books and is available here.
Laura Purcell is a former bookseller, she lives in Colchester with her husband and pet guinea pigs. Her first novel for Bloomsbury, The Silent Companions, was a Radio 2 Book Club pick, was selected for the Zoe Ball ITV Book Club and was the winner of the Thumping Good Read Award.
Reviewed by Amber Mears Brown
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