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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

3.7 (185 )
5 star
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3.9 (170 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Shaliali 06-03-13
    Shaliali 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.

    18 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Die Falknerin 07-24-13 Member Since 2008

    Painter, musician, bibliophile...

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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.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Natalie Cambridge, Ontario, Canada 03-29-14
    Natalie Cambridge, Ontario, Canada 03-29-14 Member Since 2012
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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.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Annabel 11-25-14
    Annabel 11-25-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Could Have Been Brilliant"
    What made the experience of listening to The Asylum the most enjoyable?

    The narrator is well suited to reading this story and genre, I went 'into' the story very quickly


    What was most disappointing about John Harwood’s story?

    So damn bored with slipping in a bit of lesbian-ism, it seems that every writer out there right now is trying to add gravitas to their main plotline by adding in an irrelevant lesbian angle. Actually, its worse than that as its actually an INCEST lesbian angle, this really wearied me. I was really getting into the story and then BOOM - teenage boy fantasy storyline creeps in. Ruined the atmosphere.


    What about Rosalyn Landor’s performance did you like?

    I went into the story very quickly and the narration did not irritate me or get in the way of the story


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Who's the maddest of them all?


    Any additional comments?

    :LOVE the idea running through this book, especially in the beginning when the story line was so tight and you really didn't know who was mad, or lying or confused. Great idea for a novel. Shame about the late middle section.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    RueRue 04-01-14
    RueRue 04-01-14

    RueRue

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "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.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kindle Customer 01-18-14

    alwayswalkingmydog

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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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Delah 01-14-15
    Delah 01-14-15 Member Since 2012

    Which came first... the books or the glasses?

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    "Pretty Good. A little too dragged out at the end."

    I pretty much enjoyed this book except that I think it went over long and had me wishing toward the end that it would hurry and wrap up. Also it can start to get confusing toward the end if one is not listening on a consistent basis and paying close attention. The narrator is good. This is not a book that will stay with me after I've read it. I'm glad it's over and I can move on to something else.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paisley ASHEVILLE, NC, United States 11-13-14
    Paisley ASHEVILLE, NC, United States 11-13-14 Member Since 2013

    Fan of philisophical fantasy, historic fiction, Victorian gothic, books that make you think!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Encapsulates you in a small, fascinating world."
    Where does The Asylum rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    It's in the top rung! I loved listening to this one with my boyfriend and would highly recommend it as a road trip book or something to listen to with company. We had a great time dissecting the plot and stopping it every once in a while to throw our theories out as to how everything would be resolved.


    What about Rosalyn Landor’s performance did you like?

    She did such an excellent job of switching voices for characters that I honestly forgot this wasn't a full cast production. So many female narrators give male characters awful, unconvincing, or flat voices, but not this lady. Very impressive!


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    *POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT* There was a line near the end where Georgina comments that there was a greater reason she could never be Frederick's wife, beyond their relation, and it was that her love for Rosina had revealed a deeper truth of herself. I don't think even my boyfriend picked up on the fact that Georgina was saying she digs ladies and not men!
    That's not a "moving" moment, really, but a notable one that is pretty subtle and easy to overlook.


    Any additional comments?

    This is the second Harwood novel I've listened to, and I'm fascinated with how immersive his worlds are, despite being bound up in a relatively small scope. Everything is lushly detailed and character driven. You will find that even if you don't particularly care for a character, you are still listening with rapt attention and eager to find out more about them.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alexandra 12-02-13
    Alexandra 12-02-13
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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.

    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lori United States 05-28-13
    Lori United States 05-28-13 Member Since 2006
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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.

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
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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.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Louisa
    Freshwater Bay, United Kingdom
    7/7/13
    Overall
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    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!

    4 of 4 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
  • Macwoman
    Leamington Spa, England
    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
  • 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
  • mollyeyre
    Leicestershire UK
    7/28/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Kept my interest"

    Overall this novel did keep my interest, as some other reviewers have mentioned, there is a strong 'Woman in White' feeling running through. As this (Woman in W) is one of my all time favourite books the Asylum left me a bit unsure.
    The characters were well drawn, but as ever I get very irritated by the actions of the daft heroin as she misses the obvious!!
    Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book, there were a couple of twists that were quite good and it held my interest throughout.

    1 of 1 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.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • E
    2/12/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "The asylum"
    What made the experience of listening to The Asylum the most enjoyable?

    Not my usual kind of choice. Really enjoyed this book. Would recommend. Have listened to it a few times now.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The suspence


    What about Rosalyn Landor’s performance did you like?

    She has a voice that really seemed to set the scene and era. She managed to carry off doing various characters well.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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