Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Whispering Muse by Laura Purcell

CWW

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to. 

This week my book is: The Whispering Muse by Laura Purcell.  Basically, not to lay it on to thick over here, but I’ve really enjoyed all the books I’ve read by this author so to say I was excited to see this is something of an understatement.  I can’t even begin to describe my excitement – I don’t have enough words and you all don’t have enough time.  I’ve used a cover from Goodreads that is not yet finalised so be aware of that please:

TheWM

By the pricking of my thumbs…

At The Mercury Theatre in London’s West End, rumours are circulating of a curse.

It is said that the lead actress Lilith has made a pact with Melpomene, the tragic muse of Greek mythology, to become the greatest actress to ever grace the stage. Suspicious of Lilith, the jealous wife of the theatre owner sends dresser Jenny to spy on her, and desperate for the money to help her family, Jenny agrees.

What Jenny finds is a woman as astonishing in her performance as she is provocative in nature. On stage, it’s as though Lilith is possessed by the characters she plays, yet off stage she is as tragic as the Muse who inspires her, and Jenny, sorry for her, befriends the troubled actress. But when strange events begin to take place around the theatre, Jenny wonders if the rumours are true, and fears that when the Muse comes calling for payment, the cost will be too high.

…Something Wicked this way comes

Expected publication : February 2023

Friday Face Off : Must be Gothic

FFO

Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book (this doesn’t have to be a book that you’ve read), compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future’s themes are listed below – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.

This week’s theme:

Must be Gothic

Today I’ve chosen a book from a favourite author who really can write a gothic tale.  Laura Purcell’s Silent Companions:

Perhaps not the darkest of the covers but I love the attention to detail and that eye looking through the keyhole brrr *chills*.

Do you have a favourite?

I’ve updated the list now to include themes for next year.  If you know of an event that’s coming up let me know and I’ll try and include covers that work for the event itself so that you can link up to the Friday Face Off and, as always, if you wish to submit an idea then leave me a comment – or if you’d like to host a week then simply let me know.  Also, I would just mention that it’s very possible that some of these might be repeats from previous FFOs although I have tried to invent more ‘open ended’ prompt that can be interpreted differently and also prompts that relate to emotions.  Finally, don’t struggle with any of these, this is meant to be a fun way of highlighting books.  If you can’t come up with a book you think fits for a particular week use a freebie – perhaps a recent read for example:

Next Week : Your earliest sci-fi read or the first sci-fi you reviewed

2021

November – Sci Fi Month

5th – Your earliest sci-fi read or the first sci-fi you reviewed

12th – A book with ‘star’ in the title

19th – Futuristic vista

26th – A Black Hole – in the universe or going deep into the ground

December

3rd – Windswept, the classic figure, stood majestically, with wind blowing out in a fetching way

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

24th – All things fire – red hair, red covers, fire breathing dragons, simply fire?

31st – What’s your catnip – if it’s on a cover you have to pick it up

The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Laura Purcell Does It Again

ShapeofThe Shape of Darkness is Laura Purcell’s latest novel and is another fine display of her wonderful writing ability.  I started with her Silent Companions novel and was blown away and consequently devour everything she writes.

As the title suggests, this story is dark indeed and is a perfect combination of Victorian superstition and fascination with the macabre.  This is not the Bath of the Regency period with women in empire dresses and bonnets sashaying around the Pump Rooms gossiping about the latest fashions and the militia.  This is a period of industry with the grime, poor sanitary conditions and bleak working conditions associated with the period and Purcell uses this to enhance her story displaying the disparity between the rich and the poor, using the horrors of a period where decent working conditions were non-existent and offsetting this with the change in psyche at a time when invention and change were paramount.

As SoD beings we meet Agnes Darken.  Bath is in the grips of winter and Agnes is struggling in more ways than one.  She isn’t 100% fit having almost died from pneumonia and having suffered family loss is now responsible for the care of her mother and young nephew.  On top of this work is harder to come by.  Times are changing and people want the new and modern.  Photography is the new rage and very few people are interested in having their silhouette taken – which is the profession that Agnes excels at and indeed loves.  Times are tough, the cupboards are bare, the tea caddy empty and the house cold and unwelcoming.  Agnes needs to work but when her customers start dying under strange circumstances her livelihood is really threatened and Agnes finally seeks the help of a spiritualist.

I will confess that when I first started SoD I struggled a little to connect as the beginning is undoubtedly bleak.  But, let me be clear, this uncertainty only lasted a few pages before Purcell had hooked me with the strange coincidences that surrounded each death.

What I really loved about this was the different povs.  We have Agnes, an older woman, unhappy in love, who is struggling to cope.  We then have a young girl called Pearl, only 11 or 12 I think, an albino who apparently is a gifted spiritualist.  Pearl lives with her sister and the two take care of their father who is slowly dying from Phossy Jaw.  Agnes would have been considered a genteel woman, educated and well spoken but fallen upon hard times.  Pearl and her family are working class, also struggling to survive with low wages and harsh conditions and resort to doing whatever it takes to survive.  A strange connection links the two families and slowly but surely they become more involved.

Purcell absolutely excels at the gothic.  She is a word magician when it comes to deliciously dark mysteries and using the Victorian era, which is positively oozing with creepiness.  She manages to conjure a time and a place with perfect ease.  The house, cold and dark, only the ticking of the clock to break the silence.  The time of year, freezing cold, icy fingers, threadbare clothes and sooty fireplaces.  But, more than that it’s the quiet sense of unease that prevails throughout the read.  You’re swept up in the story, so busy putting (or trying to put) together the pieces to make a whole, becoming more excited as you chase the clues, that you don’t realise you’ve missed something until the gloriously twisted end. To be honest, even now I’m in two minds about the ending – and yes, that is a deliberate play on words.

This is an author that continues to impress, she continually comes up with curious phenomenon that leaves me with the desire to learn more once I finish reading and I find myself, again, desperately waiting to see what she comes up with next.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell – because LAURA PURCELL!!!!!!  That is all.

ShapeofAs the age of the photograph dawns in Victorian Bath, silhouette artist Agnes is struggling to keep her business afloat. Still recovering from a serious illness herself, making enough money to support her elderly mother and her orphaned nephew Cedric has never been easy, but then one of her clients is murdered shortly after sitting for Agnes, and then another, and another… Why is the killer seemingly targeting her business?

Desperately seeking an answer, Agnes approaches Pearl, a child spirit medium lodging in Bath with her older half-sister and her ailing father, hoping that if Pearl can make contact with those who died, they might reveal who killed them.

But Agnes and Pearl quickly discover that instead they may have opened the door to something that they can never put back…

Expected publication : January 2021

Bone China by Laura Purcell

Posted On 28 October 2019

Filed under Book Reviews
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Comments Dropped 17 responses

BoneChinaBone China is the third book I’ve read by Laura Purcell and firmly cements her in my mind as an amazing storyteller.  I might not have quite loved the story here as much as the previous two books but the writing is amazing and Purcell’s ability to conjure a novel full of gothic atmosphere is second to none.  I just love her writing.  Definitely an auto buy author for me and I look forward to seeing what she does next.

Bone China brings to us a story of two women.  Told in alternating timelines we first make the introduction of Hester Why as she makes her way by carriage to Moroven House.   Hester has taken a new position and travels by coachlight during a bout of particularly fierce weather.  We discover immediately that Hester is hiding something and in fact has taken on a different identity hoping to start afresh.  All will be eventually revealed as to why exactly Hester has felt the need to runaway from her past.

The second timeline takes us back to the past when Dr Pinecroft and his daughter Louisa take up residence at Moroven House.  The rest of their family have died, taken by consumption, and Dr Pinecroft is determined to find a cure for this deadly disease that steals so many lives.  He’s using the beach at Moroven as an experiment and has moved a number of prisoners, all at different stages of the disease, to a cave there, where he believes the sea air will help to revive them.

Both stories have an edge to them that involves myth and folklore.  There is talk of the fae and changelings and both tales have a creepy ominous feel that deepens as each story progresses.  I also really liked that some of the characters play a role in both stories although I won’t discuss that particular element further.

What I think works really well here is the atmosphere that Purcell creates.  A sense of dark foreboding where you almost want the main protagonist to simply get the hell out of there – I know that’s what I’d want to do anyway.    Deliciously dark.

In terms of the characters I think this might be the only element that kept me from being totally bowled over.  Hester is an unreliable narrator which is actually something I usually enjoy very much and up to a point it works really well here.  I think my main issue is that I couldn’t really find it in myself to like Hester.  Her earlier actions with her former employer were very dubious to say the least – I won’t say that she was fully to blame for the chain of events that occurred but her actions, prompted by jealousy, were bad, very very bad, and so even though some of her later actions helped to redeem her a little I think her earlier character decisions were difficult to shake off.  In fairness, at the same time that this gave me pause I also have to applaud it because it’s so suitable for this style of book.  Hester isn’t perfect.  She’s made mistakes and has run away to escape the consequences but her new position feels akin to out of the frying pan into the fire and it has this feel of retribution, like there simply is no way of running away from your own actions.

I enjoyed the earlier timeline with a young Louisa Pinecroft desperately trying to help her father and stop him floundering with despair and guilt.  This is a story that also begins to spiral out of control with the doctor himself becoming consumed with a kind of hysterical madness.  I felt for Louisa and again I think that the fact that she was so trapped in the craziness that began to unfold left me feeling a little dissatisfied although i can’t entirely pin down why, I guess I wanted things to work out better for her but then again – the nature of this type of story.

This is definitely a book that has had me turning around in circles.  There are so many things that I loved about it.  The writing – which is beautiful and evocative.  The setting, with the Cornish coast really playing into the story and in fact becoming almost like a character itself.  The spooky house, the superstitions.  The sense of impending doom.  In fact, the more I think about it this book really has managed to grab my attention and keep it for considerably longer than I would normally expect.

I did enjoy this and the more I think about it the more elements of the story, when played over in my mind, on reflection were just really damned good.  I think the only thing that keeps me from being blown away is a combination of two factors, the first the authors phenomenal success with both The Silent Companions and the Corset – oh my, did I love those two books and even though I don’t want to compare it’s kind of difficult, not to mention inevitable really, that those comparisons will take place – would I have loved this more if I hadn’t read the first two – very likely, but I’ll never really know.  The second is just an overall feeling that I wanted maybe a happier ending somehow – although, that being said this is gothic and happy bunnies and rainbows are not often part of the general landscape.

On a totally fickle note I simply have to mention the cover – it really ties into the book so very well and gives me a serious case of the heebie jeebies.

I would rate this 4 out of 5 stars

And, I cannot wait to see what Laura Purcell comes up with next.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

 

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