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The Asylum | [John Harwood]

The Asylum

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....
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Publisher's Summary

A brilliant new Gothic thriller from the acclaimed author of The Ghost Writer and The Séance.

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 and into a web of hidden family ties on which her survival depends.

Here is another delicious read from the author praised by Ruth Rendell as having "a gift for creating suspense, apparently effortlessly, as if it belongs in the nature of fiction."

©2013 John Harwood (P)2013 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Creepy doings - certificates of insanity, switched identities, morbid personalities - in and around an asylum in 19th-century England… Harwood certainly makes the atmosphere work here." (Kirkus Reviews)

"Engrossing… The crisp prose and twisty plot will encourage many to read this in one sitting." (Publishers Weekly)

"Harwood, master of creeping Victorian horror, does it again in his latest tale of pervasive evil and madness.… Twisted in every sense of the word and wonderfully atmospheric, this dark psychological tale shocks by degree until truth of a sort is revealed, in a style similar to that of Joanne Harris’ Sleep, Pale Sister and D. J. Taylor’s Kept." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (103 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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3.7 (97 )
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4.1 (95 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Shaliali Sevierville, TN, United States 06-03-13
    Shaliali Sevierville, TN, United States 06-03-13 Member Since 2007

    I love the BBC and British mysteries, but my tastes are very eclectic. I live with my husband and menagerie of rescued cats and dogs.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Mesmerizing"

    This book is different from my usual cup of tea, so I hesitated a bit before purchasing it. I was afraid it might be too formulaic to be enjoyable, but this has been one of my favorite audiobooks in some time. First, it is very atmospheric; I was immediately drawn into this world. Harwood created a main character to whom I was immediately drawn. Much of the story is told through flashbacks, but the narrative switches between the present and past so skillfully that transitions are seamless. As I listened, I always had questions that made me find just a few more minutes to listen a little more. The suspense isn't driven by violence and mayhem, but of situations with "something" just a bit off kilter, or the promise of information just around the bend. I don't want to say much about the plot because each new element of the plot reveals something that you've been wondering about. If you read the publisher's summary on the book's page, it gives you a decent enough feel for the book; just know that this story is very well crafted.

    If you're considering this book, go ahead, you won't be disappointed. The writer is talented; Rosalyn Landor does her usual outstanding job; and the overall result is an experience that I am very glad I did not miss.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Die Falknerin 07-24-13 Member Since 2008

    Painter, musician, bibliophile...

    HELPFUL VOTES
    286
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    "Another brilliant novel from Harwood"

    Not much more can be said about the plot beyond the publisher's description without spoilers. Suffice to say we are, without preamble, plunged straightaway into a nightmarish situation that takes place in a Victorian England of the author's imagination.

    In all his writing, Harwood displays a gift I associate strongly with M.R. James: he can take otherwise unremarkable characters, events, places, and situations and gently bring in horror in the most unexpected way, transforming all into the extraordinary. Each author does so with subtlety, beautifully economical writing, and an uncanny ability to evoke atmosphere.

    Landor narrates with her usual elegant precision and feeling for character. I've loved everything I've ever heard her read.

    I also recommend Harwood's stunningly original debut novel, "The Ghost Writer," and his second, "The Séance." Both are unforgettable, well-written tales that will stay with you long after you've finished the last pages. If you like your historical fiction with a slightly gothic twist, few do it better than Harwood.

    As usual, I cannot wait to read his next novel. I hope you'll feel the same way.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    RueRue Orange County, CA 04-01-14
    RueRue Orange County, CA 04-01-14 Member Since 2013

    RueRue

    HELPFUL VOTES
    90
    ratings
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    87
    86
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    Story
    "Great Begining and Wonderful Narration"
    Would you try another book from John Harwood and/or Rosalyn Landor?

    Loved Rosalyn Landor's narration ! I might try another John. Harwood story. I liked the writing, but the plot became much too convoluted, and I felt there were some plot threads left dangling.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    A less convoluted plot and more character development would have made this a better narrative.


    Which character – as performed by Rosalyn Landor – was your favorite?

    She did all of the characters, male and female, very well. Great narration !


    Could you see The Asylum being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    It certainly has cinematic potential, but the plot would need to be simplified.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Natalie Cambridge, Ontario, Canada 03-29-14
    Natalie Cambridge, Ontario, Canada 03-29-14 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good listen, but not gripping"

    It took a couple of tries to get into this one, and I really didn't get absorbed into the story until well into the second-half of the book. The gothic aura of the book is very well done, and the pervasive sense of impending doom does pervade the story in undercurrents, but it was tedious at times. The underlying question of her sanity is well balanced to make me wonder at times which way it was going to go. The narration was good.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. Stephan CARTHAGE, MO, United States 01-18-14
    C. Stephan CARTHAGE, MO, United States 01-18-14 Member Since 2007

    alwayswalkingmydog

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good Thriller, Excellent Narration"
    What about Rosalyn Landor’s performance did you like?

    Excellent reader for a British mystery thriller. She was able to perform male dialog as well as the woman's. Pleasant voice.


    Any additional comments?

    The story line dragged a bit in the middle, but otherwise was a good read. It kept my undivided attention, except for the middle part, where letter after letter was read. In my opinion, sometimes a more concise synopsis would have sufficed.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kristi Milwaukie, OR, United States 02-08-14
    Kristi Milwaukie, OR, United States 02-08-14 Member Since 2011

    An old broad that enjoys books of all types. Would rather read than write reviews though. I know what I like, and won't be bothered by crap.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    202
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    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Is it amnesia or a conspiracy?"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    Not really. I wanted to know the ending but I wasn't enjoying the book. It tended to drag and was not very thrilling to listen to either.


    Would you recommend The Asylum to your friends? Why or why not?

    I would tell my friends to pass this one by. Not worth the listen.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    She was adequate given the material she had to work with.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    No, can't see myself enjoying this as a movie either.


    Any additional comments?

    The story revolves around a young woman waking up in a madhouse in Victorian England. She is told she is not who she thinks she is and the story goes meandering from there.
    As a short story this might have been successful.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alexandra PALMYRA, VA, United States 12-02-13
    Alexandra PALMYRA, VA, United States 12-02-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting Period Thriller but not a page-turner"

    Set in an earlier time period, this thriller starts off well, but then winds into an implausible storyline with love affairs at the root of all the vagaries of the different characters. It feels as though the author missed the mark quite widely so this ends up being just another period story with some strange and improbable twists. Not worth the credit.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Brown Australia 06-25-14
    S. Brown Australia 06-25-14 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
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    "I made it a few hours"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Someone who enjoys a very slow start and a story that moves back and forth between settings.


    What could John Harwood have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    I wouldn't even begin to advice. I've enjoyed this other books. Perhaps the book is better in the printed form than the audio


    What three words best describe Rosalyn Landor’s performance?

    boring, boring, boring


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Conchita Raymond, OH, United States 03-20-14
    Conchita Raymond, OH, United States 03-20-14 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Promising preview but disappointed in the end"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Better reader, better story


    What could John Harwood have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    The premise was a good one, but I just didn't connect with the characters.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    Had more expression; her voice made me sleepy.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lori United States 05-28-13
    Lori United States 05-28-13 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good but very, very like fingersmith..."

    I enjoyed this book just as I enjoyed Fingersmith by Sarah Waters but there are quite a few similarities....Both involve a stolen identity by an imposter and thereby committing the real heroine to an asylum and both involve the relationship between the two women being more then just friends with the wronged falling in love with the imposter. so of you have read fingersmith it can be slightly irritating. Having said that I was very hooked until the ending.
    The big climax at the ending falls a bit flat...But all in all a enjoyable read.
    The narrator was excellent.

    1 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 10 results
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  • barjil
    BEMBRIDGE, United Kingdom
    5/27/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A cracking Gothic yarn!"

    I have raced through this book and am now sorry I've finished it. It has overtones of Wilkie Collins but maybe that's because it's set in the 19th century and the asylum reminded me of 'The Woman in White' - this is far more exciting, though.

    The reader has a very refined voice which may irritate some people but it goes very well with the story and she's able to use it to voice the different characters. I looked for other books by John Harwood but this seems to be the only one.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • sharon
    Falmouth, United Kingdom
    7/15/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Darkly Menacing."

    Never having had the pleasure of John Harwoods works before I didn't know what to expect. Dark and brooding you are immediately drawn in to a this mystery being drip fed clues along the way while Georgina Ferris tries to solve the puzzle of how she ended up in an asylum in Cornwall. She soon realises that the answers lie in her families past.
    The pace was perfect and as the drama unfolded I was almost climbing into my ipod.
    But damn it the ending was anti climatic, Dr Strakers part really confused me, but hey horses for courses, it still does not detract from the very excellent writing, even though the ending wasn't to my taste will still look for more by JH.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Elizabeth
    LEAMINGTON SPA, Warwickshire, United Kingdom
    7/7/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Victorian Gothic thriller"
    What did you like most about The Asylum?

    Nicely judged and imagined Victorian tale of fear of madness, repressed sexuality, and greed.I did not think initially that I would follow this through to the end, but I did - the story got hold of me in a way that I often think marks a good writer. The author does not overdo the Gothic atmosphere, but all the ingredients are there: a remote asylum for the insane on Dartmoor, an aloof and questionable doctor with a strange laboratory in the grounds, a woman who suffers from amnesia so badly that she can remember nothing about how she came to be there. Who is doing what to whom? We do not find out till the very end, and in between there is a feast of those long newsy Victorian letters between friends, lost wills, tyrannical fathers and unfaithful lovers. Anyone who has enjoyed a good 19th century novel will enjoy this, and find it more accessible.

    I don't usually go in for complaining about endings, as it seems to me that that is the author's choice, and their right. I can have an opinion, however, and that's fair enough. Some readers will find the ending unconvincing, but I thought it just about stood the reality test.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    I liked the heroine for her doughty determination not to be put down by this crowd of Victorian men who truly felt their superiority to be so obvious as not to need any evidence to support it!


    What about Rosalyn Landor’s performance did you like?

    The reader does a good job of sustaining the atmosphere and maintaining the style of a carefully articulating, educated woman of the period, and I think she manages the frail male asylum heir particularly well.


    Any additional comments?

    Good listen for a boring trip home, or a rainy Saturday when you don't want anything that will stretch you too far.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Louisa
    Freshwater Bay, United Kingdom
    7/7/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A real treat"

    It's a real treat to find John Harwood in audio. His last book, The Seance appeared on audible for a nanosecond and then was withdrawn. Harwood tells deliberately gothic tales - but they are always very gripping and a very good read or listen. Rosalyn Landor's reading is good and she manages to give the characters the right personalities from the start. There is not much more to say about the story than you'll find in the blurb and one doesn't want to give any of the plot away so suffice it to say that it's an excellent summer listen or a good one for a cosy bedtime. Enjoy!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Beccameriel
    London, United Kingdom
    6/26/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Gripping Victorian Gothic"

    Clearly inspired by The Woman in White, this is a good stab at a Victorian gothic novel. Shades of Sarah Waters and Michel Faber (but with less sex!). I could pick holes in the fact the the device of the letters is not very convincing - no one would report conversation like that in a letter - but it's so enjoyable overall that can forgive that. The story is, perhaps, a bit rushed at the end but it's jolly entertaining.

    Rosalyn Landor has just the right voice for a genteel 19th century lady.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • fiona
    Ireland
    8/14/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "great twists and turns"

    An evocative period tale. Appealing heroine, great cast. The story is spooky and atmospheric. I would recommend this to fans of the seance.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Stephen J. Welch
    Near London
    6/3/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Much more compelling that the synopsis suggests"

    Very much enjoyed this book: an excellent story, with more complexity and a slowly revealed back story. This makes the narrative canvas much wider than might appear from the synopsis, and though the comparison with Wilkie Collins might be going a bit far (* fewer words than he would use I feel sure!), it is an excellent read.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • S. Beaton
    scotland
    7/14/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Loved It"
    Would you listen to The Asylum again? Why?

    Yes, I twas a very interesting and mind gripping story, which kept you in suspense.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Nadia
    United Kingdom
    7/14/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great Historical Drama"
    Where does The Asylum rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Somewhere in the middle. I've listened to so many.


    What did you like best about this story?

    It was beautifully and sensitively written.


    Have you listened to any of Rosalyn Landor’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    I've listened to one other book narrated by her. She won't win any awards perhaps but she is perfectly listenable.


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    I hate this question as I would never make a book into a film.


    Any additional comments?

    I loved the style of this book. The Author has the Victorian style down perfectly and his language and descriptions are beautiful. This is a moving portrayal of one woman's struggle to recover her lost identity and I was rivitted throughout.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Richard
    Merseyside, United Kingdom
    6/30/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Rather drawn out ...."
    What did you like best about The Asylum? What did you like least?

    The narration was very twee but so was the story. Bit disappointed as the title and write up seemed promising. The chasteness was all a bit unbelievable despite it being an historical read


    Would you ever listen to anything by John Harwood again?

    No


    Would you be willing to try another one of Rosalyn Landor’s performances?

    No I found it all quite tedious


    Was The Asylum worth the listening time?

    No


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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