Thirty-two year old Hester Way arrives in a memorable fashion to Morvoren House in Cornwall. She is using an assumed name to take up a new post there as nurse to Miss Louise Pinecroft, the mistress of Morvoren. She left her previous position under a dark cloud, so wants to start afresh. She aims to become indispensable to Miss Pinecroft, though her plan is thwarted as Miss Pinecroft is acting unreasonably, and does not take Hester’s advice. Hester herself is quite addicted to gin and pines for a drink daily which compounds her predicament.
Morvoren House is plagued with a foreboding sense of unease. The staff are peculiar and there are several mysterious features of the house which cause Hester to question her own mind. Cornish superstitions are rife among the house’s residents.Forty years earlier, twenty-year-old Louise Pinecroft has recently moved to Morvoren House with her father, a physician. Having lost his wife and two children to the dreaded disease, he is determined to find a cure. He believes he can cure tuberculosis (then called phthisis) by housing patients near the sea believing that the fresh sea air has healing properties. He takes five criminals from Bodmin Prison and houses them in a cave on the beach below Morvoren House. His reputation rests on their cure…
“She knew all too well that when all you saw for hours was sickness and death, your musings could take the strangest turns.”
“The House of Whispers” is my third read from the talented Laura Purcell. I’ve reached the stage where I will automatically pick up her newest works as I know to expect gothic, creepy, well-researched historical fiction that holds my interest throughout.
“The House of Whispers” aka “Bone China” was told via dual timelines forty years apart. Set on a Cornish cliffside, the book was atmospheric and foreboding. In the earlier timeline, Miss Louise Pinecroft was surrounded by an obsessed father, terminally ill convicts, and unsettling domestic staff. The remote setting added greatly to the feeling of pervading unease. In the later timeline, Louise Pinecroft is in her sixties, mostly mute and suffered from a stroke. Both timelines have elements of superstition and the supernatural, and are connected in a devastating way.
Recommended to those who cherish spine-chilling historical fiction, though if you are superstitious I’d give this one a miss…
Personally, I prefer the cover of “The House of Whispers“, though I must say I prefer the title “Bone China“.
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Penguin Books via Edelweiss. ISBN: 9780143135531 – ASIN: B0818ZPHDJ – 336 pages
Laura Purcell is the author of The Silent Companions and The Poison Thread. She worked in local government, the financial industry and a bookshop before becoming a full-time writer. She lives in Colchester, the oldest recorded town in England, with her husband and pet guinea pigs. Fascinated by the darker side of royal history, Laura has also written two historical fiction novels about the Hanoverian dynasty.
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