Title: The Corset
Author: Laura Purcell
Publisher: Raven Books
Publication Date: 20th September 2018
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I wasn’t too sure what to expect from this book – but oh boy, it was INTENSE. This beautifully-written Gothic tale sucked me in from the very beginning, taking me on a wild ride through the grim and grisly parts of Victorian Britain.
The Corset tells the story of Dorothea Truelove, a young heiress with a passion for phrenology, and her visits to Oakgate women’s prison to visit Ruth Butterham, a sixteen-year-old seamstress convicted of murdering her mistress. From the very beginning there is a supernatural element to Ruth’s tale, which I previously haven’t enjoyed in historical fiction – but Laura Purcell weaves it so deftly into the story that it fast became one of my favourite elements.
I love stories with contrasting protagonists, especially when both are women, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know both Dorothea and Ruth through their alternating chapters. The stark contrast between Dorothea’s scientific world view and Ruth’s fantastical tale made the story so interesting, causing me to continuously reassess my opinions as I tried to decide who I believed.
There’s lots of good period detail in here, including some interesting detail on phrenology and lots of insight into the process of dressmaking. It’s worth noting that Laura Purcell also doesn’t shy away from the more gruesome details in her writing – and in fact there were a couple of points where I actually did have to set the book aside for a moment, because the more graphic scenes are written so vividly that they actually made my stomach churn!
Most of the characters in this novel aren’t great people at all, yet I still found myself absorbed in their lives as I eagerly awaited the next twist or turn. I enjoyed reading about them with the same sort of morbid fascination as I felt when reading Wuthering Heights, so I definitely think Laura Purcell succeeded in capturing the essence of Gothic fiction.
The final twist took me completely by surprise, and I’m still mulling it over even a day after finishing the book. Overall this was a thoroughly absorbing read, and I’m keen to read more by Laura Purcell – but if The Corset is anything to go by, I think I’m best sticking to reading her books during daylight hours!