Book Review: Laura Purcell presents another fine Gothic horror with Bone China

Bone China

Hester Why has her share of secrets. Travelling under a false name, on the run from something that – for the time being – remains a mystery, she’s on her way to Morvoren House, an isolated manor on the Cornish coast. Tasked with nursing Morvoren’s aging owner, Miss Louise Pinecroft, Hester joins a household in thrall to a servant named Creeda, whose tales of Cornish fairies and dark superstition have influenced near every corner of the home.

But Hester has no interest in pixies and spellwork. Haunted by her own history, self-medicating with laudanum and gin, the murky secrets of Louise Pinecroft’s father and Morvoren House are less than secondary. Yet, even she can’t deny there’s something in the chill sea air. And, she’s sure it’s got something to do with the vast china collection her new employer refuses to leave alone.

Interspersed with flashbacks to both Hester’s and Louise’s chequered pasts, Bone China is the latest in author Laura Purcell’s growing tradition of excellent, and suitably chilling, Gothic horror. At once both a love letter to Daphne Du Maurier and a uniquely eerie work all its own, Bone China is a true page-turner.

Hester and Louise make for compelling leads, as the lines between reality and Creeda’s fae world begin to blur. Putting the pieces together is a joy, as scandals and tragedies unfold in the lives of both Hester and Louise.

Filled as it is with delicious foreboding, it’s a shame then that Bone China‘s finale falls a little flat. The ending itself suits the genre perfectly, but odd pacing leaves it over all too quickly. Where earlier revelations showed themselves by wonderful, painful inches, the big reveal is almost blurted out, setting into motion a chain of events that might have had more impact given a little more time.

Well researched and incredibly atmospheric, Bone China only just misses the mark, with an ending that doesn’t quite live up to the menacing tone set early on. It is, nonetheless, an excellent read, filled with tension, gripping prose, and that uniquely Purcell brand of Gothic horror.


Laura Purcell’s Bone China is available now from Raven Books.

Jodie Sloan

Living, writing, and reading in Brisbane/Meanjin. Likes spooky books, strong cocktails, and pro-wrestling.