Title: The Asylum
Author: John Harwood
Genre: Historical/Gothic Suspense
Blurb: Confused and disoriented, Georgina Ferrars awakens in a small room in Tregannon House, a private asylum in a remote corner of England. She has no memory of the past few weeks. The doctor, Maynard Straker, tells her that she admitted herself under the name Lucy Ashton the day before, and then suffered a seizure. When she insists he has mistaken her for someone else, Dr. Straker sends a telegram to her uncle, who replies that Georgina Ferrars is at home with him in London: “Your patient must be an imposter.” Suddenly her voluntary confinement becomes involuntary. Who is the woman in her uncle’s house? And what has become of her two most precious possessions, a dragonfly pin left to her by her mother, and a journal that contains the only record of those missing weeks? Georgina’s perilous quest to free herself takes her from a cliffside cottage on the Isle of Wight to the secret passages of Tregannon House, into a web of hidden family ties on which her survival depends.
My Thoughts: THE ASYLUM is a great Gothic tale that keeps you on the edge of your seat as the plot twists and turns so you just don’t know what to think is going on; and if you do think you know then you have no idea why and whom! The Gothic novel developed in the late 1700s and is a genre of literature that has a main character trapped in a life-threatening situation and usually combines elements of mystery, horror and romance. A very good explanation of what gothic literature is defined as can be found here. The hardest part when reviewing books is trying to ensure that there no major spoilers. This is even more important with Gothic mysteries where a tiny throw away mention can be a vital clue. Author John Harwood starts with his clues very early on (although I didn’t realise this until the end) in THE ASYLUM and then the story is told from a few different perspectives as the novel advances; Georgina’s perspective in the first part, then in the second part is told through a series of letters between two characters, as well as Georgina’s journal entries, and then in the third and final part it goes back to Georgina’s narrative again. Each part has its own set of clues. I was actually thrown off a little when the perspective changed in the second part, but once I clicked what was happening I settled in and tried to make sense of the new twists being added to the existing mystery as well as increasing the suspense in the story. The mood was set from page one and the story was well-paced with the tension building up as Georgina grows more desperate to find out who she is and to escape the asylum. The climax when it arrives is very melodramatic, as it should be, this is a gothic story after all – lives should hang in the balance. THE ASYLUM had all the right elements – a woman in jeopardy; foggy/rainy/stormy moors and an old isolated gloomy house – complete with ruins. The relationships between the different characters where quite complex, but not impossible to follow and I really enjoyed reading about them and trying to figure out just who could be trusted and what their various motivations were. Recommended if you enjoy a little thrill without being scared to death.
Rating: B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it.
For more about the author – Click Here
With thanks to Random House and the author via Netgalley.