Opening sentence: “Love is fragile, my mother once said.”
Since I discovered Laura Purcell’s books earlier this year, I have become quite the fan. She has her signature tone and style locked down and if you too adore Gothic novels that are written in an engaging, clever, sophisticated way, then you’d better pick up a copy of Bone China immediately. Or The Silent Companions. Or The Corset. These are her three atmospheric, Gothic novels and they’re all brilliant.
In Bone China we have two narrators: Hester Why, a lady’s maid and Louise Pinecroft, the lady Hester is employed to serve. Hester finds herself having to leave her job in London pretty sharpish and is keen to get as far away as possible. So she accepts a position in Cornwall, in Morvoren House – to be specific – right on the coastline, overlooking the sea. Louise Pinecroft is the lady of Morvoren House and has a rather impressive collection of, you guessed it… bone china.
It’s not long before Hester starts to think that things are a little off in Morvoren House, she has to contend with local myths being treated as gospel and her mistress’ inexplicable fixation with her bone china collection. All while battling her own conscience and trying to atone for what she believes she has done in the past. Hester is a really interesting character and one I could never quite work out while reading. This was a great thing though; not being able to second guess what a character will do from page to page brings that element of suspense and surprise that is always welcome.
I loved how Cornish folklore plays big and small roles in the book too. It’s pivotal to the main story but there are also nods to it, such as, Morvoren is simply the name of the house but its named for a mythical Cornish mermaid. (Side note: I actually fell into a bit of mermaid Google hole researching this, they’re so fascinating!)
What Laura Purcell is truly superb at is the power of suggestion. In all three of her books there are supernatural themes that make you suspend your disbelief – but are these plot themes to be taken literally or have they been conjured up in the imagination of the characters? You’re never sure and that’s what makes her writing so delicious. Ambiguity is a tricky thing to execute but she does it SO WELL. An author to add to your reading list, for sure.
/ Published by Raven Books September 2019
/ 430 pages
/ Rating: 4/5