What it’s about:
Newly wedded and pregnant Elise Bainbridge travels to join her husband at his family mansion estate in the English country. Her husband unexpectedly died of unknown causes, leaving Elise to live alone with his cousin, lackluster servants, and local villagers. The tale alternates between two time frames, 1865, where Elise is imprisoned in an asylum with multiple murder charges and is telling her doctor the events from 1635 that got her there.
In the past, Elise lives in the neglected estate, which is believed to be cursed and haunted by the locals. In the house, Elise finds a locked room that contains a silent companion; a flat, human sized wooden figure that is painted in her likeness. After this discovery, the story unfolds with all the classic Victorian Gothic characteristics of creepy and haunting experiences.
What I thought:
The Silent Companions is the epitome of the Victorian Gothic haunted house and ghost story. The atmosphere is dark, unsettling, and chilling to the bone. I normally don’t like to read scary stories because I am a big scaredy cat, but this one had just the right amount of scare factor that had me on edge but wouldn’t give me nightmares. I did have to read it with the light on though! This book is a perfect read for Halloween time. I have another one of her books on my shelves to read, The Poison Thread. I haven’t gotten the guts to start reading it yet.
What is super creepy is that silent companions, also called dummy boards, are a real thing. They were life size figures made out of wooden boards that were used in the 17th century to decorate interior rooms. The companions were often painted to look like children, servants, and animals. The National Trust conservation charity in Europe has a great article on the history and uses of the companions, along with a gallery of the companions currently in their collection. Check out the short video below to see a replica of one.