The Corset – Laura Purcell

Published By: Raven Books
Pages: 392
Date Released: 20/09/2018

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 she 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 attributed 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.



The Corset had been on my to-be-read list as soon as it was announced and I pre-ordered it as soon as I could, reading it the second it arrived and not finishing until I’d got to the end.

We all know Laura Purcell is the queen of the Victorian thriller and she does it with aplomb in this book. She concocts a marvelous masterpiece of a story, creating characters and a world where I would not wish to belong, but whose stories I long to be a part of.

Purcell manages to combine supernatural elements with the all-too-real harsh light of Victorian social status. It is obvious that Dorothea comes from a life of privilege and luxury, protected from the darkness that surrounds her, whereas Ruth is extremely poor, her life full of loss, suffering and hard work. In Victorian times, it was believed that you could literally sew ill wishes into clothing, which is why clothes were only to be fixed by yourself or your mother, to prevent any stranger sewing curses into your clothes. Whether this was true or not, I’ll leave up to you.

Whilst the book does tie up most of the plot points, it does leave certain things up to the reader to decide. Was Ruth a killer? Was she mad? Did she have supernatural powers? Or was she simply a victim?

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