Book Review: The Whispering Muse by Laura Purcell

“Be careful what you wish for… it may just come true.”

Set to be published on 2nd February, The Whispering Muse by Laura Purcell is set at The Mercury Theatre in London’s West End, where rumours are circulating of a curse. It is said that the lead actress Lilith has made a pact with Melpomene, the tragic muse of Greek mythology, to become the greatest actress to ever grace the stage. Suspicious of Lilith, the jealous wife of the theatre owner sends dresser Jenny to spy on her, and, desperate for the money to help her family, Jenny agrees.

What Jenny finds is a woman as astonishing in her performance as she is provocative in her nature. On stage, it’s as though Lilith is possessed by the characters she plays, yet off stage she is as tragic as the muse who inspires her, and Jenny, sorry for her, befriends the troubled actress. But when strange events begin to take place around the theatre, Jenny wonders whether the rumours are true and fears that when the muse comes calling for payment, the cost will be too high.

Rating:

Thank you to NetGalley for a free advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Another chilling and atmospheric historical fiction from one of my favourite gothic writers, The Whispering Muse is a dark and mysterious story with rich descriptions and tragic characters.

While The Whispering Muse didn’t have me as immediately hooked as Purcell’s other books have done so far, I soon became more and more engaged as the relationships developed and the tension built up. It’s definitely quite a slow burn, but the atmosphere is sure to have you rigid with anticipation as the story progresses.

What I love most about reading a book by Purcell is how she uses inanimate objects to create a sense of fear. In The Silent Companions, it was a dummy board. In The Corset, it was a piece of fabric. And here, it’s a watch. It takes a real writing talent to instil a sense of horror through a very mundane object, and Purcell certainly knows how to do that.

With a twist of Greek mythology, as well, I loved the inclusion of the Muse, Melpomene, and how the art of theatre played into the story, with classic scenes taking on a new meaning of tragedy. I wish there was a little more detail about her at the start, but her presence takes a great twist at the end.

With a fantastic Victorian England setting, Purcell brilliantly describes both sides of the spectrum, from the luxurious clothing to the inhumane living conditions. There are a few gory moments that made me wince, but it all adds to the horror of the situation, making this a terrifying and unforgettable story of desperation, greed, ambition and betrayal.

Details:

The Whispering Muse by Laura Purcell
Release Date: 2nd February 2023
Print Length: 304 pages
Genre: Gothic Fiction
Publisher: Raven Books

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