Book Review: The Corset by Laura Purcell

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 392 pages

Published: September 20, 2018

Publisher:  Raven Books

Genre: Fiction & Literature, Historical Fiction, Horror, Mystery


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

Dorothea and Ruth. Prison visitor and prisoner. Powerful and powerless. 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 is delighted with the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person’s skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets teenage seamstress Ruth, she is faced with another theory: that it is possible to kill with a needle and thread. For Ruth attributes her crimes to a supernatural power inherent in her stitches.

The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations – of bitterness and betrayal, of death and dresses – will shake Dorothea’s belief in rationality and the power of redemption.

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


Have you ever read a book that was not only spellbinding but leaves you with chills down your spine? The Corset is just that book. There are not many books that have me so captivated from the very first page and this is it. I had a hard time putting this one down! Not just engrossing, this truly enticing book also managed to chill me to my very core, a perfect feeling to have for the Halloween season.

It is Victorian England and Dorothea’s charitable works (and her interest in phrenology) leads her to Oakgate Prison and encountering a 16-year-old prisoner, Ruth Butterham, a seamstress who is awaiting trial for murder. But what makes Ruth so fascinating is that she claims that she can kill with a needle and thread. Ruth claims her crimes attribute to a supernatural power that is in her stitches. But by hearing Ruth’s story, Dorothea will put everything she thinks she knows into question and comes to the realization that not everything can be explained by rational thought.

There is a reason why I love reading books that come out of the UK. Not only are they notorious for writing stories that are well written, but British authors can also tell a compelling story that draws a reader in. The Corset is no exception. The writing was just exquisite. I loved how the characters were talking to me, the reader. It was both engaging and drawn me into the story that both Dorothea and Ruth were trying to tell. I felt like they were talking to me. 

You can tell by the extensive descriptive imagery that was used for the background that it was well researched and well thought out. Purcell put her heart and passion in it to make this historical setting come alive. I felt that I was there in Victorian England. You could feel the pain, the anguish, the poverty, the privilege. I felt that I was reading a Victorian Gothic novel from the 18th-19th century. You forget that you were reading a book from a contemporary author. Without this magical setting, I don’t think the characters would have felt so real to me. Dorothea and Ruth’s connection with not only the reader but also with each other just felt so realistic and surprisingly relevant. Apart from the supernatural elements, I found myself finding comparisons with the real world. Feminism, physical and emotional abuse, mental illness…just a taste of the themes that were explored in this amazing book. My favourite theme exploration was the theme of vengeance, how are the thrust of it can take us too far.

And now let’s get to the element that drew me to the book in the first place: the supernatural. As the reader, you are continuously guessing if Ruth’s power is real or she is just a disturbed young girl. That thrill of mystery and the chill that I found on every page is just what I want in a spooky read. As a rational person, Dorothea believes there is a rational reason behind everything. But by meeting Ruth, her entire thought system is thrown into disarray. You don’t know what a person is thinking and most of the time, that is scarier than powers of the great beyond. There is one scene that may be graphic for some squeamish readers but please don’t let deter you. This book had me literally at the edge of my seat, with an ending that chills you to your very soul.

Watch out Gillian Flynn, you have a new rival on your hands and her name is Laura Purcell. This dark, historical drama will keep you up at night with its elegant storytelling and seductive writing style which makes this makes The Corset a book that stands out amongst others in the gothic fiction genre.

Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The US Title of this book is The Poison Thread.

Get it At: Amazon |Barnes & Noble|Book Depository|IndieBound| Your local library

Published by karma2015

I was born and raised in New York. I still live in New York but kind of sick of the city and one day I wish to move to the UK.I have a Masters degree in Library Science and I currently work in a special collections library. I loved books ever since I was a little girl. Through the hard times in my life, my love for books has always gotten me through. Just entering another world different from my own intrigues me. As long as I am entering in another universe, I like to create my own as well. I love to write and hopefully I will be able to complete a novel.

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