Wednesday, May 15, 2013
The Asylum by John Harwood
Granted, some books have a literal breakneck pace that begs to be devoured. Others, fortunately, have more of a slow build that forces me to slow it down a bit. And I love the authors who can do this without letting me notice!
John Harwood is one of those slower, savory writers. (That sounds a bit... funny.) If you're not familiar with his work, his style is akin to that of traditional Victorian gothic tales. One of the things I love most about his books is the subtle but chilling build of atmosphere. He's always got a twist as well. Inevitably, though the reader suspects there's something supernatural at the heart of the tale, there typically turns out to be something more grounded in reality going on. But the journey from beginning to end is so perfectly agonizing and tense!
When Georgina Ferrars finds herself in Tregannon Asylum, she is more than a bit confused. Apparently, she checked in as a voluntary patient calling herself Lucy Ashton. Just a little while after arriving, she had a seizure that seems to have left her with absolutely no memory of her arrival or why she would have checked in under an alias. Things become complicated when the doctor in charge of Tregannon Asylum discovers Georgina Ferrars safe and well at her home in London. The "real" Georgina claims the patient in the asylum is a fraud who stole some of her most precious possessions - a butterfly brooch and a writing case with her journal. The items appear to be missing and the Georgina in Tregannon Asylum is certain she is who she claims. But how to prove her identity and unmask the impostor in her place will be a difficult challenge while being held under lock and key especially when she still can't remember what brought her to Tregannon Asylum in the first place.
The Asylum is told in multiple parts, alternating between Georgnia Ferrars's account from the time of her awakening in the asylum and a series of letters between Georgina's mother and her cousin, Rosina. The twist is a little easier to figure out this time around but The Asylum lived up to expectations until the final few pages.
Unfortunately, the big ending is a little lackluster and hurried in my opinion, which was disappointing compared to The Ghost Writer and The Seance.