Book Review: Bone China by Laura Purcell

Bone China…

About the Book:

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 same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home.

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…

My Thoughts:

Truly creepy gothic historical fiction is as rare as hen’s teeth. I had high expectations of Bone China and I was thrilled to see those expectations met, and if I’m honest – which is of course the whole point of a review – exceeded. And in the spirit of this honesty I’m going to confess: after reading this, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to look at my Spode bone china plates without feeling a frisson of unease. You’ll have to read the book to find out why!

‘Dawn is a crimson slash on the horizon. Morvoren House appears innocent and beautiful. Snow on the rooftop, ice laced around the pebbles. A mansion cradled like a jewel between the bare branches of the ash trees. You would never dream of what goes on behind those walls.’

Steeped in atmosphere, Laura Purcell brings a windswept, superstitious, 18th century Cornwall to life. Hester Why is a splendidly unreliable narrator, drunk and high for the most part, tormented by guilt and self-loathing, yet still possessed with enough inner nurturing to care for her new mistress. The mischief of fairies blends with a horror that is so brilliantly balanced. There were times throughout this novel where I found myself gripping my armchair in suspense and terror – it was terrific.

‘Waves slap against the cliff face. I close my eyes briefly, picturing them rushing headlong to the place where they break and scatter. What we desire and what we have lost. Are they not always the same?’

But it’s not all chills and thrills. Bone China has some truly beautiful passages of prose. Laura Purcell has a wonderful way with words, lyrical and atmospheric, she makes you feel so much on so many levels. She also has a knack at creating well fleshed out characters, who are neither good nor evil, but rather possessed with a human frailty that comes from suffering, pain, loss, and in some cases, grave injustice against them.

‘The beach wore a different aspect that morning. Louise felt she was seeing it for the first time. The grey rocks, hazed with moss and the droppings of birds, were ancient, unyielding as death. How arrogant it was for a mortal to strive against nature’s order. How utterly hopeless. The sick would die; the tide would come in.’

Comparisons to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca are justified, but don’t for a second think that Bone China is an attempt at shadowing the fame of this classic. Far from it. Bone China is a worthy addition to a shelf that contains very few novels of excellence. Gothic historical fiction is not an easy genre and form to pin down, but Laura Purcell has nailed it. I highly recommend Bone China and will be fast tracking to read her previous releases.


Thanks is extended to Bloomsbury for providing me with a copy of Bone China for review.

About the Author:

Laura Purcell is a former bookseller, she lives in Colchester with her husband and pet guinea pigs. Her first novel for Bloomsbury, The Silent Companions, was a Radio 2 Book Club pick, was selected for the Zoe Ball ITV Book Club and was the winner of the Thumping Good Read Award.
Author of : Bone China, The Corset, The Silent Companions

Bone China
Published by Bloomsbury – Raven Books
Released October 2019

13 thoughts on “Book Review: Bone China by Laura Purcell

  1. Gahhh, I was sent a copy of this one a while ago, and never quite got to it – thank you for the reminder, it sounds amazing! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: My Reading – December 2020 | Catherine Meyrick

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