The Asylum by John Harwood, in my opinion starts slowly, a young lady wakes in the infirmary of a ‘progressive’ asylum on Bodmin Moor, with no memory of how she got there, she remembers her name, Georgina Ferrars but when she is told that the real Georgina Ferrars is still living in London, she realises she’s in a nightmare that she can not get out of. Georgina, or Miss Ashton as the asylum staff insist on calling her (the name she is told she gave when she had initially arrived at the asylum) spends her confinement thinking about her childhood, the childhood of Georgina, on the Isle of Wight and from her memories it slowly becomes apparent that there are some unanswered questions about her past. Some answers appear, when about half way through the book roughly, she finds some papers and through them we are filled in on the girl’s back story, it’s at this point the pace picks up a bit and the book gets a bit more exciting.
Set in the 1800s, it’s rather melodramatic and there’s lots of “oh I fear I’m going to faint” etc. etc. It did get quite good in the end and the villain of the piece was rather clearly, as the writing quote (Neil Gaiman?) goes, the hero of his own story, which was enjoyable to read. I don’t think this book is for everybody, I can imagine its style could be potentially quite grating but if you like Victorian stuff, definitely worth a read.
****(out of 5 stars)