Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Asylum by John Harwood

John Harwood is, in my opinion, a modern master of Victorian Gothic suspense.  His previous titles, The Ghost Writer and The Séance both captured the essence of Victorian life while raising definite prickles on my spine.  In his latest, The Asylum¸ he does it again.
Georgina Ferrars awakes to find herself in a private mental hospital with no memory of how she came to be there.  According to Dr. Straker, the head of the asylum, she signed herself in under the name Lucy Ashton, and then collapsed into unconsciousness.  She clearly recalls her life as Georgina, even to the details of her childhood, but has no memory of the past three weeks.  Matters are complicated by the discovery that “Georgina Ferrars” is apparently hale and hearty and currently living under her uncle’s roof in London. 
Georgina/Lucy now finds herself involuntarily confined, trying to work out whom she truly is, and why her life has been stolen from her.
Harwood’s knowledge of the Victorian period is extensive, and he effortlessly brings the period to life.  Georgina’s strong first-person narration carries the story through adventures, unfolding mysteries, and a satisfying conclusion.
If you like psychological fiction like The Asylum, you might also like Ruth Rendell.  If Victorian settings appeal to you, try Sarah Waters or Gerri Brightwell’s The Dark Lantern.  If you enjoy the atmospheric suspense of Gothic fiction, try the more modern settings of Kate Morton

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