The Corset: Gothic mastery

The Corset by Laura Purcell, aka the queen of Gothic fiction, is a chilling, eerie tale which considers fortune, misfortune and the nature of evil. Purcell has followed The Silent Companions with an absolutely stunning novel which presents excellent characters, a gripping plot and some seriously disturbing scenes. The Corset by Laura Purcell will be published by Bloomsbury Raven on 20 September, 2018.

The Story
Ruth has been convicted of murdering her mistress. Dorothea is trying to uphold her mother’s charitable practises, so regularly visits with the female inmates at the local prison. However, even she has ulterior motives. As Ruth reveals her tale of distress, destruction and poverty, Dorothea is carefully trying to examine her skull to prove her hypothesis about phrenology. Both women uncover truths about the events leading to Ruth’s incarceration which will change their lives forever, and both women help each other in learning more about themselves than they thought possible.

Why this is a great novel…
The Corset by Laura Purcell is brilliant because, as with Purcell’s previous novel, it is incredibly well researched and well-written. I love reading the way that she writes these two female leads, giving them such opposite lives and natures, whilst presenting them both with difficult choices to make and paths to take. The plot of this novel is particularly striking; I at first found Dorothea’s side of the story a little dull, but once parallels become aligned, I enjoyed her side just as much as Ruth’s. This is a difficult feat, as many multiple perspective narratives struggle to keep the momentum and tension building in both voices. I also enjoyed the progression of both characters; Ruth opening up to Dorothea, finding herself freer as she weaves her story, and Dorothea learning that her doe-eyed innocence is not always the best way to see the world.
I found the intrinsic details of sewing, phrenology and the criminal justice system so interesting. I felt that these characters knew exactly what they were doing and talking about, and Purcell has outdone herself in terms of researching these practices. I particularly enjoyed reading the sections where Ruth is crafting corsets, as these are such old-fashioned garments, that it is interesting to see how they have developed from this time period.
Contrary to popular opinion, I actually thought that The Corset was just as good as The Silent Companions. I felt that the two women’s interwoven stories were just as hard-hitting and chilling to the bone. I will note that The Corset is not so much a ghost story, so there are fewer heart-racing scenes, but then I believe that for this reason they can not be compared as such. The way Purcell writes still gripped me from the first page, and I was so invested in the characters’ endings that I couldn’t not love this novel. I will say that, hopefully in the final copy, Purcell has wrapped up Dorothea’s love life in some way or another, as I felt a little sympathy for both men awaiting their answers.

Overall, I loved The Corset by Laura Purcell. I found it appropriately gripping, gory and disturbing in all the right ways. It did not fall into the trap of too many Gothic conventions, which made it all the more enjoyable and displays Purcell’s pure ownership of the genre. I would recommend this book to anybody who enjoys crime fiction told from the criminal’s point of view, lovers of dark historical fiction and people who want to read a book with a touch of the dark side! Thank you to Bloomsbury Raven for my advance proof copy in exchange for an honest review.

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