Monday, September 2, 2013

REVIEW: The Asylum by John Harwood

Synopsis: 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, 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 writing case containing her journal, the only record of those missing weeks? Georgina’s perilous quest to free herself takes us from a cliffside cottage on the Isle of Wight to the secret passages of Tregannon House and into a web of hidden family ties on which her survival depends.


My Thoughts: Prior to this book I had not read anything by John Harwood but I am a big fan of Gothic novels and the premise for this one caught my interest.  This tale had so many unexpected turns that brought on a myriad of reactions including: Hmm...  What?!  Ok then... Preposterous!  and OMG! just to name few.  It all starts when Georgina Ferrars wakes up in a mental institution with no idea how she got there or why she would have checked herself in as Lucy Ashton.  What she does know is that she is NOT Ms. Ashton as the doctors insist and she wants out of there like yesterday.  The only problem is when Georgina's uncle is contacted to verify her identity he says the real Georgina is at home and the woman in the institution must be confused about who she is.  So, is the institutionalized woman the real Georgina, Lucy Ashton, or someone else?  If the real Georgina is the woman in the institution that everyone insists is Ms. Ashton then who is the woman who has stolen her identity?

The only way the young woman has of discovering her true identity and piecing together how she got to Tregannon Asylum is through letters she discovered concealed in the lining of her trunk.  Using these letters which delve into Georgina's past, Harwood weaves a suspenseful tale featuring a convoluted personal history which totally sucks the reader in.  I will admit there are a few elements that are almost overdone or beyond belief including the big reveal of the villain at the end and some sexual tones between two main characters which are not necessary and don't add much to the story.  Also it is hard to imagine that there could be someone so similar to another in appearance and demeanor that they could potentially be mistaken for one another.  Another story element that left me wondering is the contents of a will that contains some mysterious clause that will help in the discovery/retrieval of the woman's identity.  It seemed bizarre to me that someone would think this particular thing should happen at some point in the future that would it necessitate putting the clause in place. Despite these few things I found this to be a satisfying read that I whizzed right through.  I will be trying The Seance and The Ghostwriter at some point-maybe on a chilly fall day when I am in the mood to throw on the pajamas, make a hot chocolate and tuck myself in with the cats at my feet.

 I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley.  These are my honest thoughts on the book.

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