What is Sera Reading? The Corset by Laura Purcell

The main characters are Dorothea Truelove, who is young, wealthy and beautiful. She is involved in charity work at the fictional Oakgate Prison, where she meets Ruth Butterham. Ruth is young, poor and awaiting trial for murder. Her story is madness, but is it true?

Is prisoner Ruth Butterham mad or a murderer? Victim or villain?


This book is a gothic-style novel, the telling is magical realism, which as a storytelling device can sometimes split opinion, but it is done brilliantly here. The writing is excellent, and it’s captivating. The setting is expertly rendered, and Purcell manages to recreate the Victorian period with an eye for detail and the differences that are sometimes overlooked. The result is that a reader requires minimal effort to become immersed.
Ruth’s story is beset with unhappy events. I’d go so far as to say tragic. Starting in her early school days when she is harshly bullied. Dorothea Truelove has wealth, beauty, and a certain amount of freedom. She is a bit pretentious, perhaps a little naïve in some ways. You think these two have nothing in common. However, Ruth could have shared a similar lifestyle to Dorothea. Had her mother not been so unlucky in her choice of husband. Her mother, originally from an upper-class family, is disinherited because she intended to love an artist. Her husband, Ruth’s father, is quickly living by the bottle. He becomes uninterested in his wife and daughter, and their lives lurch from poor decisions, debt, bad luck, unhappy disaster and loss until their family life is utterly ruined. Ruth is sold into what can only be described as slavery.
Some of the most interesting supporting ideas are Dorothea’s fascination with phrenology and her wish to test her hypothesis that the shape of a person’s skull can signal if they have evil or dark tendencies leading her to Ruth. Also, the mental health and physical effects of Ruth being taught by her mother to become a seamstress and her natural talent. The secretly crafted new corset that acts as a metaphorical armour against her fears and insecurities caught my imagination. In the final chapters, you can almost explain away all the magic, yet, it is magic how fate seems to pull on the treads of these two lives.
I have no hesitation in recommending The Corset, a thrilling story laden with clever ideas and plot twists.

Note* In the USA, Laura is published by Penguin Books, where The Corset is titled The Poison Thread and Bone China is called The House of Whispers.

Published by BlueFalcon1983

YA Writer and illustrator

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