The queen of spooky books is back with her third novel Bone China. Laura Purcell has become a name among the fans of storytelling that makes you question what is real and what is not. Both her previous novels The Silent Companions and The Corset followed the same pattern of narration that Bone China has adopted. There is a secret, there is unease, a strangeness that borders with the supernatural letting the readers decide for themselves whether or not the explanation is rational or magical.
In Bone China Purcell sends us to a Cornish household. The protagonist Hester Why is a woman with secrets running from London. She is an alcoholic who dabbles with laudanum and she has been working as a housemaid and a nurse for a number of households. She is good at her job but wherever she sets a foot the people she takes care of meet unhappy endings, which makes her think she is cursed. The reader gets to experience her latest employment that ends once again with a tragedy and it is the reason behind Hester’s escape from London to her new employment in the spooky Morvoren House. In typical Purcell style the people occupying Morvoren House have a secret. The treble narrative slowly shows us Hester’s past, Hester’s present and the actions that have taken place in Morvoren House forty years before. The array of characters lets the readers immerse themselves into the strange story of the young Mrs. Pinecroft, the lady of Morvoren House, and her tragic family story. The reader gets to experience the uneasy Cornish folklore that has infiltrated the house and influences the every day life of the household. Not surprisingly the story does make us question what is real and what is not. Can the story be explained rationally or is the reason behind all this tragedy to be found in the Cornish magic?
Purcell does a brilliant job at building the unease and, as the events unfold the story gets more and more entangled. Magic and superstitions seep into the narrative. As with her other novels Laura Purcell does an exemplary job into researching the Cornish folklore, myths and legends. Bone China is a rich tapestry of the magic and superstitions that can be found in Cornwall. Such eye for detail is a great joy to read as it allows the reader to learn something interesting whilst taking part in a spooky story. There are not many scary scenes in the novel but the sense of unease lingers in almost every page creating a great atmosphere for the lovers of scary novels. The story takes the reader to a different time and does so in a way that feels realistic. We are introduced to the problems of the age and we get to suffer alongside the characters we meet and this requires research and skill that Laura Purcell possesses.
However, unlike her two previous novels, this one does not bring a satisfying ending to the story of Morvoren House and Hester Why. The culmination felt a bit rushed and the three stories did not fit as nicely as they could have. The tempo of the novel towards the ending was not consistent with the rest of the book as the tale galloped towards its tragic conclusion. The menacing presence of the Cornish fairies was also not entirely fulfilled as there was space for the folklore and magic to play a bigger and more tangible part in the story.
Despite the few downfalls of the book, Laura Purcell has delivered another novel that will make you feel uneasy and this is what a good, spooky stories are all about. The fans of Gothic mysteries are bound to love Bone China and hopefully also pick up copies of Purcell’s previous books. Purcell has really become an established name in the Gothic canon with just three books under her belt and I for one cannot wait to see and read her next work.
Bone China is available now, published by Raven Books.