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. 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…
Publication date: 19th September 2019
*I received a kindle edition of this novel via NetGalley l in exchange for an honest review*
I love atmospheric or chilling tales and Bone China fits that description to a T. Laura Purcell uses a dual narrative, set 40 years apart – the former focusing on Hester Why a maid who is in disgrace and running from her difficult past and the latter on Louise Pinecroft, the daughter of a doctor who is trying to cure the disease of consumption. The setting is the harsh and unforgiving Morvoren house, perched on top of a cliff, where there is talk of malevolent fairies and other supernatural folk who wish humans harm. Throughout the course of the story, readers are taken on a tumultuous journey of wondering whether the strange events are human or something all together more sinister…
The gothic setting and writing is definitely the strongest element in this novel and it works wonderfully to create a truly atmospheric tale. Purcell writes two very different but equally intriguing leading ladies, Hester and Louise respectively. Hester is a complicated character, on the one hand you want to root for her and see her change her life around but on the other hand she has a disturbing and obsessive side to her personality which is her undoing. Louise is more of a conventionally likeable character, in her youth she was strong willed and determined, but due to a traumatic event she changes drastically in her old age and becomes superstitious and fearful. I enjoyed that we got to read each of their stories and really understand what makes them tick.
As well as having interesting main characters, the novel also works as an exploration of superstition and fear in the 18th Century. While it seems bizarre from a modern perspective, folk tales and the like were how people understood the world in a period of drastic change and upheaval, a metaphor for the problems of the time perhaps. The staff in the household of Morvoren all subscribe to the practices ranging from salt on the threshold of the doors, to carrying pages of the bible with them at all times to protect them from the faeries.
Despite these elements which I liked, there were some issues I had with the pacing at certain points of the novel as well as the ending which I felt was slightly disappointing. We spent all this time with these characters and the build up of tension and suspense and I didn’t feel like the payoff was all that satisfying. Not that an ending has to be satisfying to be good but I just wished there was something more there.
Overall, I enjoyed reading Bone China and it had really promising elements such as interesting characters and the gothic setting which I always enjoy. However there was just something which felt slightly disjointed to me regarding the pacing and ending and how it all plays out which stopped me from enjoying it fully. I would still recommend this for fans of gothic thrillers and atmospheric stories.
Until next time,