This is a book that I have anticipated for the majority of the year. It’s a secret that isn’t very well hidden that I have adored Laura Purcell’s writing for quite some time now, instantly falling in love with both The Silent Companions and The Corset. I had decided that I was going to put off buying her latest release, Bone China, until after Christmas, as a little ‘New Year’ gift to me and to give me a chance to tackle my ever-growing TBR pile. However, one ill-fated Waterstones trip later, the book came home with me and my TBR books just looked on judgingly as I devoured it. But, I mean, it’s signed… it’s not like I could just leave it!
Bone China features a series of interweaved timeline in order to concoct a delicious and addictive read, a tantalizing mystery that leaves you engrossed and mystified. As always, I butcher synopsises, so I have chosen to lift this one from the wonderful book itself:
Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.
Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralysed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last…
What really attracted me to this book was the interesting setting of this novel. I’ll always be a big fan of historical fiction, particularly neo-Victorian novels, and this book definitely satisfied my addiction. However, most of the Victorian fiction novels I read feature inner city life, as this seems to be the setting most desired by writers. Bone China is set in the wild and savage countryside, a country house besieged by nature … and perhaps more magical forces. The sinister surrounding paints the perfect backdrop for the confusing and paranoid actions within the novel, the sense of isolation and, at times, claustrophobia simply terrifying.
I have always said, I am not a fan of dual narratives. I suppose this isn’t exactly right. I LOVE a dual narrative when they are done right however, I so often find myself ‘niggled’ by their confusing layout and find that I just cannot connect to the characters or the plot. Well, that most simply is not the case with this novel! Within this narrative, there are three timelines interweaved to make the perfect mystery. First we follow Hester Why as she arrives in Cornwall, a maid on the run with a fake identity. Plagued by a gin addiction, Hester is distrusting of all that she sees, especially to the strange behaviour that seems to follow all at Morvoren House. We receive glimpses into her past, hints as to the scandal that surrounds her and that led her to this inhospitable location. My favourite timeline had to be the one set forty years ago, as we follow Louise Pinecroft when she first arrives in Cornwall, the new location for her father’s strange experiments. I loved the confusion and the intrigue that surrounded this narrative, the juxtaposition between cold, scientific location, and undeniable, superstitious folklore.
I have to say, I think that this may have been one of my favourite novels of this year. I loved the mystery and the confusion that surrounded the narrative, and found myself in absolutely disbelief at the superstitious conclusions that seemed to surround the events that happen. The entire time I read this book I was gripped and eager to find the answers. I think it would make a perfect Winter Warmer as the nights grow darker and filled with the strange sounds of nightly storms. I can already tell this is going to be a read I’m dishing out to all my friends and familiar, eager to hear their lovely comments too.