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The Asylum

3.39  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,808 Ratings  ·  431 Reviews
A brilliant new Gothic thriller from the acclaimed author of The Ghost Writer and The Seance

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,
Hardcover, 257 pages
Published May 21st 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2013)
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Historical Fiction 2013
109th out of 372 books — 2,430 voters
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Modern Gothic
68th out of 453 books — 1,098 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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May 15, 2013 Kris rated it liked it
I won an ARC of The Asylum from a GR First Reads giveaway, and it came at a great time for me -- the end of the semester, when I needed some light escapist reading. It may sound odd to call The Asylum light reading, given its synopsis: Georgina Ferrars wakes to find herself in Tregannon House, a private asylum in Cornwall. She meets Dr. Maynard Straker, who informs her that she arrived at the asylum having identified herself as Lucy Ashton. She then suffered a seizure with left her with impaired ...more
Goodreads tells me I have had this, John Harwood's third novel, on my wishlist since October last year. So obviously, when I received an ARC of The Asylum I immediately got stuck into it - despite the frustratingly late UK release date of 20th June (it comes out in May in the US) - and I couldn't put it down until I'd finished. This is an addictively readable and deliciously compelling gothic mystery which grabs your attention on the first page and refuses to let go.

The book opens circa 1882 wit
Mauoijenn ~ *Mouthy Jenn* ~
This was a dark, complicated and kind of confusing book. There were a few times I had to reread a few pages as the story kind of felt jumpy to me. Interesting story line, I really hoped this was going to be a winner. It fell short some.
Aug 01, 2013 Linda rated it it was ok
Deeply disappointed in this latest John Harwood offering. I read "The Seance" by this same author and was captivated by that one, passed it on to my daughter who also gave it the thumbs up. I found The Asylum confusing, dark and gloomy throughout. The story, set in the 1800's, moves between past and present centering around Georgia Ferrars our key character. Georgia wakes up in an asylum without knowing how she came to be there. As she gives her account of what she knows what follows at the end ...more
Jul 02, 2013 Cynthia rated it really liked it
“Asylum” is a throwback to the 19th century when Sensationalist writers were all the rage. Think Collins’s “The Moonstone” or even better Braddon’s “Lady Audley’s Secret” or Mrs. Henry Wood’s “East Lynne”. I love this genre and I’m glad to see Harwood embracing it. There are secrets galore and you’re never on solid ground with this story. I was continually guessing and then second guessing where the plot was heading and trying to understand which characters were reliable.

The narrative goes back
Jun 17, 2013 Bandit rated it it was amazing
I enjoy John Harwood books, I've read his previous two, but this one was by far my favorite of his thus far. Ghost Writer was an exciting debut and Seance had some sophomore slump mainly due to the fact that it was set in a more current time. Harwood writes gothic fiction, so it really works best when it's set within a proper era. Asylum works well because Harwood absolutely captures the age, the setting, the atmosphere, the characters, but particularly it is the relentless suspense the makes th ...more
Jon Recluse
Jul 23, 2013 Jon Recluse rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
No one writes Gothic quite like John Harwood. His ability to capture the mood, atmosphere and mores of the classics is without equal, while avoiding the florid excesses that plagued the subgenre. And with The Asylum, he has produced one of the best Gothic mysteries I've read in years, filled with a creeping paranoia and genuine chills.

Highly recommended.
May 27, 2013 Jane rated it really liked it
This is wonderful: an utterly readable, utterly compelling Gothic mystery, set in Victorian England.

It begins with a young woman waking in a strange bed, in a strange room. The smell and texture of her blanket was wrong, the coarse flannel nightgown she was wearing was not her own, and when she opened her eyes and saw a grille covering the small window, roughly painted walls, a heavy oak door with a small aperture she knew that something was terribly, terribly wrong.

And she had no memory at all
Caro M.
Jul 13, 2015 Caro M. rated it liked it
Shelves: gothic, 2015-reads
I have to confess - Harwood is my guilty pleasure. I will be adding every book Harwood writes to my to-read shelf in future.
This book gets 3 and a half stars. I liked it. All elements of the puzzle, such as family secrets, dramatic turns, skeletons in the closets and some other things (that I don't want to spoil here), were quite similar to those of The Ghost Writer and The Seance, but in different combination it made this victorian novel taste quite good. Just to compare - The Ghost Writer was
Dec 06, 2014 Helen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Imagine waking up one day to find yourself in an asylum, with no memory of how you came to be there. You know your own name – Georgina Ferrars – but the doctor tells you that you had admitted yourself as a voluntary patient the day before under the name Lucy Ashton. The clothes and belongings you've brought with you, marked with the initials LA, seem to confirm this, but you're sure that's not who you are. Sending a telegram to your uncle, a London bookseller, you wait for him to prove your iden ...more
Lisa Ahlstedt
Jun 24, 2013 Lisa Ahlstedt rated it it was ok
Meh. I was expecting a spooky, gothic tale, based on the cover and description. Perhaps if they make a movie out of this book it would turn out that way, but I had a hard time getting that vibe from the book. It has a promising opening, with young Georgina Ferrars waking up in a mental institution in Victorian England with no idea how she came to be there. Even more perplexing, the numerous staff members she comes in contact with all insist that she presented herself as "Lucy Ashton" and said sh ...more
May 26, 2013 Sue rated it really liked it
Two of my favorite genres combine in Harwood's latest, historical fiction and a gothic style mystery set largely in a Victorian era asylum. There are questions of identity and sanity. A young woman awakes in an asylum told that she is Lucy Ashton, someone she doesn't know, and has no recall of her past.

Harwood sets up the story in three parts: the initial narrative telling of Lucy's history, the middle section providing history through letters from the past, and the third section which provides
Sep 10, 2013 Ti rated it it was ok
The Short of It:

An asylum, a young woman who has supposedly gone mad, the English setting…and yet I struggled with it.

The Rest of It:

Georgina Ferrars wakes up in an asylum. She can’t remember how she got there or why, but she is quickly told that she admitted herself under the name of Lucy Ashton. When she questions this, her uncle back home is notified and he confirms that the REAL Georgina Ferrars is in fact, with him, and that there must be some mistake.

As you can imagine, the mistaken identi
Nov 25, 2015 Terri rated it it was amazing
Georgina wakes in an asylum with no memory of the past few weeks having registered under an assumed name with no idea how she got there. The Doctor tells her she had suffered a seizure the day before and that he has confidence she will regain her memories. She has him send a telegram to her uncle and is shocked when the response says that Georgina Ferrars is there with him and she is an imposter they had taken in as a guest.

After this revelation, the mystery deepens as she tries to understand wh
Jul 14, 2014 Tracey rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction

Somewhere towards the middle
Slightly interesting, I hope it gets good

The rest of the book
I read John Harwood's 'The Seance' a little over a year ago and really enjoyed it. When I saw he had a new book out I eagerly added it to my list of books to be read, when I saw it being offered through the Vine I happily picked it up.

Georgina Ferrars finds herself in an asylum with a gap in her memory and no recollection of how she has arrived at Tregannon House. Dr. Straker, the asylum's director, tells her she came to visit him and introduced herself as Lucy Ashton then had a seizure while sh
Many thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the galley copy (via NetGalley)

A young woman wakes up in an asylum with no recollection of how she got there or why she voluntarily committed herself under another name. Upon insisting that she is Georgina Ferrars, not Lucy Ashton, and that her uncle, who also her guardian, should confirm her disappearance, Georgina receives the shock of a lifetime to discover that another woman is staying with her uncle and is now living her life. Georgina, now in a
Jun 28, 2014 Celia rated it did not like it
This was actually a really interesting and engaging read until the last third of the book. Then it just fell to spectacularly crappy pieces. The last 50 pages or so were practically phoned in. Put aside the fact that the main character is the very definition of (exasperatingly) gullible- it's the character flaw that sets up the story. Fine, I'll take it. But so much mystery and intrigue and then… nothing. Ends in a poorly constructed hurry. The "bad guy" gives up in the space of two paragraphs w ...more
I think this novel had a lot of potential that the author left untapped. Georgina's story is fascinating, and I like how the reader pieces it together just as Georgina does. What I found a little distracting was the static quality of the narrative. Much of it is told through journals and letters, which I always find problematic. It's hard to believe that anyone would keep a journal as detailed as the one Georgina does, or that anyone would write letters as comprehensive as the ones Rosina sends ...more
This book is gothic fiction at its best! This was the first book I’ve read by Harwood and I will be reading his others. This book grabbed me from the start and kept me on the edge of my seat all the way through.
Poor Georgina wakes up in an asylum with no recollection on how she got there, she is also registered in a name that is not hers. Between the memory loss and her giving a false name the doctor thinks she should stay and get her memory back when things go from bad to worse when the doctor
Nancy Oakes
I never added a review here (or if I did, couldn't find it). So here it is, from June 2013.

I have to be rather honest here. This is the third book I've read by John Harwood -- I loved his The Ghost Writer, which was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Prize in 2005, and I also enjoyed The Seance, his second book. Compared to those two, this one is not as good, and for me, not so mysterious as I feel a gothic-style novel should be. Having said that, let me just say that it's getting multi-star rati
Really 2.5 stars, but 2.0 seems so harsh when maybe I just didn't appreciate the book?

The first half seemed a slow slog, but I was genuinely interested in how Our Heroine ended up as a patient? We get some back story via letters to her mother from a cousin, that frankly read more as a "device" to impart the information that correspondence. The story became so convoluted that I lost track of which character "went" with which thread; things also got a bit creepy (although the lesbian romance wasn'
Aug 24, 2016 Antigone rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
It's two o'clock in the afternoon, Thursday, the second of November, year of our Lord 1882. Georgina Ferrars opens her eyes in a Cornwall lunatic asylum with no idea how she got there and deeply confused by the staff's insistence on referring to her as Lucy Ashton. She convinces the doctor to contact her uncle and inform him of her predicament. Her uncle responds with the assurance that his niece is with him. The patient must be an imposter. So begins a distinctly disturbing tale by John Harwood ...more
Nov 19, 2015 Tien rated it really liked it
An asylum in the 19th century instantly brings to mind unpleasant things; a place where the care of sick people could be so inhumane. Yet, it is a perfect setting for a gothic novel. The Asylum is a very engaging read; a good mystery to keep the reader’s interest and a thrilling plot that I could barely put it down.

The story is told in two different ways; Georgina Ferrars’ perspective and a set of letters. It opens with Georgina Ferrars waking up in an asylum, being told that’s not the name she
I was attracted to this book because the synopsis reminded me of something that I started writing once. Though my own efforts petered out after a few pages, John Harwood takes our heroine right to the finish line.

Georgina Ferrars wakes up in Tregannon House wondering where she is, only to discover that is the least of her problems. She is missing memories, isn't sure how she came to arrive in the asylum, and is told that she committed herself under a name that she doesn't recognize.

From this pro
Megan Chance
Jul 07, 2013 Megan Chance rated it really liked it
I think Harwood deserves a bigger readership among historical fiction devotees than he has. This is the second of his novels I've read (also The Seance), and I admire how deeply Harwood gets into the feel of the period. The female narrator awakes one morning in an asylum with no idea how she got there, and no memory of the days before. What memories she DOES have, however, seem to belong to a woman the doctor of the asylum claims she cannot be: Georgina Ferrars--a woman who is safely at home, an ...more
Tina Hayes
Apr 14, 2013 Tina Hayes rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, vine, suspense
John Harwood's "The Asylum" is a suspense novel set in England in the mid to late 1800s. I enjoyed the way it was written, with a feel for classic literature of that time period, which I think also complimented the Gothic setting.

Georgina Ferrars wakes up in an asylum with no recollection of how she got there, plus her two most prized possessions are nowhere to be found. When the great-uncle she lives with is contacted, he sends a reply stating that Georgina is indeed still in his house at the v
Jul 20, 2013 Ariel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gothic
A young woman wakes up in an asylum. She believes her identity to be that of Georgina Ferrars but she is told that she calls herself Lucy Ashton and she voluntarily checked herself in. When it is found that there is a Georgina Ferrras living in the house that "Lucy" says is hers the voluntary stay suddenly becomes involuntary. Compounding the mystery is the whereabouts of two precious items "Georgina/ Lucy" would never be without. After the intriguing set up the rest of the novel unravels who "L ...more
Flavia Conley
Sep 21, 2015 Flavia Conley rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the story and the mystery dragged me in. It was hard to put it down for days without knowing what in fact was going on. Very English. Very well written. I liked the style too (narratives, diary entries, letters). I had only one complaint - not really a complaint, but something that made me a little annoyed was how the letters were written. Now, I know nothing about how letters were written back in 1800's. Perhaps it does have all of those descriptive dialogs. The character writes lette ...more
Diane S ☔
Jun 25, 2013 Diane S ☔ rated it liked it
The tone is that of a gothic story, the writing very formal. The characters include a very naive young woman, a corrupt young woman and various doctors, aides, a very self involved uncle, though his involvement is with books so he might be forgiven, and other to round out the support cast past and present. Interesting, for sure but I just found myself very irritated by the young naive woman, how can one person, oh never mind thank god I didn't live back than because I never would have wanted to ...more
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John Harwood is the author of two previous novels of Victorian Gothic suspense. Aside from fiction, his published work includes biography, poetry, political journalism and literary history. His acclaimed first novel, The Ghost Writer, won the International Horror Guild's First Novel Award. He lives in Hobart, Australia.
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“is like a leaden blanket of darkness—darkness and fear, because you are possessed by dread: a universal dread that clamps like a limpet onto every passing thought. In the depths of an attack, I wake each morning feeling as if I have committed a capital crime and been sentenced to hang. The overwhelming temptation is to seek oblivion, and at the worst, the thought of the ultimate oblivion is always with you.” 1 likes
“At times his mind would race beyond control, whirling from one dreadful prospect to the next, all fraught with the most hideous anxiety; then his thoughts would slow until to think at all was like trying to wade through quicksand, and he would sink into a lethargy so profound that even to leave his bed seemed an intolerable effort. And over all was cast a leaden blackness of spirit, a thing worse than the worst pain he had ever experienced, because it consumed his entire being, suffocating all joy and hope as if he were being smothered by ashes.” 1 likes
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