Title: The Asylum
Author: John Harwood
Release Date: May 21, 2013
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Historical Fiction, Psychological Thriller, Gothic Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5
A woman awakens to discover that she’s in an asylum in England. Despite the fact that she knows to the core of her being that she’s Georgina Ferrars, she’s told that she checked in under the name Lucy Ashton. When Georgina insists that there’s been a misunderstanding, the doctor cables to Georgina’s uncle in London, only to be told that there’s been a mistake, as Georgina is as home with him. As she begins to question her own sanity, Georgina must discover who she really is and what is happening around her.
The Asylum is set in the Victorian era, and once again, John Harwood delivers a compelling psychological gothic mystery within these pages. Though Georgina is clearly troubled—after all, she checked herself into an asylum and has no memory of doing so—the reader is inclined to trust her. Who is doing this to her and why? What grand plan is there, that multiple people are working together against Georgina to ensure she stays put in the asylum? While it’s enough to make any reader question Georgina’s sanity, her integrity and surety keep the reader invested in her story, convinced that she is, indeed, correct in her assertions.
The novel also has wonderful atmosphere, beginning with the fact that it’s set in an asylum in a large, old house. Readers will be able to picture Georgina’s place of confinement through Harwood’s descriptions. Though she initially committed herself to the asylum, it becomes Georgina’s prison as the doctor believes she’s a danger to herself and others. Harwood writes this beautifully, making the novel close, with a claustrophobic feeling. If you’re a fan of haunted, atmospheric writing, The Asylum is absolutely a novel you should pick up.
The plot of The Asylum moves as a steady pace, as Harwood weaves puzzle after puzzle around the reader. As the novel progresses and more information is revealed, readers will be able to guess at the final outcome, but they could never imagine the level of intricacy or detail in Harwood’s plotting. It’s incredibly well done and makes the novel difficult to put down. He makes a bit of a leap at the end of the book that I didn’t love, but overall, this is an excellent read.
If you enjoy well-written and tightly plotted psychological novels, then you should definitely consider any of John Harwood’s novels. He’s a talented writer, and it shows on every page of The Asylum. The addition of a potentially unreliable narrator in Lucy will keep the reader guessing, while the atmosphere will send chills down the reader’s spine. All in all, it makes for one delicious package wrapped up neatly into this engaging book.
Other books by John Harwood: