75. The Corset by Laura Purcell

I have wanted to read this book for a while now and I wasn’t disappointed with what I read. Even now, hours after I’ve finished reading, my heart is still thumping with adrenaline and the story is still lingering within my mind.

Synopsis (as taken from the Amazon Kindle Store) is as follows:

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

Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor and awaiting trial for murder.

When Dorothea’s charitable work leads her to Oakgate Prison, she finds herself drawn to Ruth, a teenage seamstress – and self-confessed murderess – who nurses a dark and uncanny secret. A secret that is leading her straight to the gallows. As Ruth reveals her disturbing past to Dorothea, the fates of these two women entwine, and with every revelation, a new layer of doubt is cast…

Can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad, or a murderer?

Ability to read – I talk about the word ‘addictive’ a lot when I’m reviewing books. I can’t think of an instant where this statement has been more true. The Corset was addictive. It was addictive to read. It was addictive to learn. It was addictive in the way it pushed the characters. I didn’t think much upon the way I was reading it or judge it on my ability to read because, simply put, I was too eager to turn the page. This book has a hunger inside of it that makes you want to read as fast as you can so that you can discover all of Ruth’s secrets and understand the climax to come. To answer this question though, I did not have any issues with reading it. I found the language to be simple and smooth flowing and felt I could stay in the story for the duration of the read without being thrown out of it for any reason.

Characterisation – At the start I thought very little of Dorothea’s character and I suppose this is because I found Ruth’s character to be the more intriguing and exciting one. Dorothea’s character did grow on me and I began to see different sides of her that warmed my opinion. Ruth was the stronger of the two characters – to my eye at least – and it was her story that I was more eager to read. Through Ruth’s story, I had many feelings about her character, some good and some bad but I never made any true predictions as I read. I felt betrayed by the injustice to Ruth’s life but at the same time I felt fearful of her actions and of what would become of her. The little interactions I saw between Dorothea and Ruth had a level of innocence to them and a desire of disclosure without assumption or opinion. I wasn’t certain of which way the characters stories would go and I am more impressed with how they actually turned out than anything I could come up with myself.

I found Ruth’s story the more interesting one and as the synopsis states, whether Ruth can be trusted and whether she is mad or a murderer were thoughts that constantly shifted as I read the book. I identified more with Ruth than Dorothea but then I didn’t find Dorothea to be a fully formed character – or perhaps it was just my reluctance to get to know her – and there was something exciting and needy in Ruth that made me a champion for her underdog nature.

Through Ruth’s story the characters became larger than life and I was able to understand all the players on the board. Many of my theories were proved wrong as I read but the actual ending left me shocked. I experienced a lot of adrenaline while reading this, along with some anxiety and the penultimate pages definitely had me on the edge of my seat and learning the truth lingered with me for a couple of days. I was so shocked by what had actually happened that I couldn’t focus on anything else or even consider picking up another book until I had put this one to rest.

Visualisation – It was very easy for me to visualise what was happening but I think that goes hand in hand with the desire to learn all of Ruth’s story. Ruth’s chapters ran deeper for me and I felt that I gained more detailed descriptions from them and had more room to play with visually. I could clearly invision the characters and how they would behave and act within each scene and generally had a clear picture of everything needed to paint a picture. Between the details and the different character POVs, I was able to construct a good working image in my mind and used my imagination to embellish certain aspects into something that worked for my mind. I think the level of adrenaline and anxiety I experienced when reading this helped my visualisation of what was happening also. I felt like I got a complete picture of what was happening and didn’t feel like anything was missed out or forgotten. Visualisation – It was very easy for me to visualise what was happening but I think that goes hand in hand with the desire to learn all of Ruth’s story. Ruth’s chapters ran deeper for me and I felt that I gained more detailed descriptions from them and had more room to play with visually. I could clearly invision the characters and how they would behave and act within each scene and generally had a clear picture of everything needed to paint a picture.

Uniqueness – To me, it was as unique as it was thrilling. It’s not often that I find a book that lingers with me so long after reading it or one that pumps adrenaline through my body to the point that I start to feel a little anxious. The story in this book really comes alive from the first turn of the page and the twists and turns felt unique and unusual. I didn’t start reading and have any vibes of thinking ‘oh I’ve read something like this before’. I very much felt that I was reading something new and original and that it was something that was going to take my breath away and keep my mind active.

Victorian Gothics and dark mysteries/thrillers are finely tuned machines. I think of them like I think of Salted Caramel. If done well, it’s amazing, if not, it’s regretful to put in your mouth. For me there is a fine line between good and bad with this genre and I am happy to report that this was definitely on the good side. I’ve read 76 books so far this year and this one is my top pick for the year so far. Something inside this book connected with me and it became a necessity to read about Ruth’s story and to form my own opinions on her guilt. This book had an obsessive nature for me and I couldn’t read any other book until I’d finished this one. Even writing this review now, I’m transported to those last pages and I’m still shocked by them. This book seems to keep on giving or at least keep you from forgetting it. I loved every moment of it and found it to be very unique.

Other – If there was one book out of all that I’ve read this year, it would be this one that I’d recommend people to read the most. It isn’t just that the story is brilliant and the writing creative, it is the arrange of emotions the reader feels while reading and the adrenaline that courses through your heart as you come to the climax of the book. I had such highs and lows while reading this and went through many different emotions when thinking about the characters involved. This is a story that will linger in your mind for days after and make you constantly change your mind of the characters involved. It is addicting in the way that the character’s stories are told and in the way the truth comes to light in the end. This was an exceptional read, five stars!

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