Friday, August 8, 2014

The Asylum, by John Harwood

Oh what tangled webs we weave… Georgina Ferrars wakes up in an asylum, the memories of her past a dark abyss. She is told she admitted herself here only yesterday, not as Georgina Ferrars, but as Miss Lucy Ashton. Georgina is beside herself at this news for she cannot imagine why she would have made up a name or why she would have sought to speak with Dr. Straker personally at all. The only thing she can remember is that she is most definitely not Miss Lucy Ashton, that she has no memory of ever succumbing to seizures, which she’s told she may have had the day before, and she most definitely doesn’t suffer melancholia.

Then Georgina begins to remember. She lives with her uncle at the booksellers, oh how worried he must be! But when inquiries are made, his niece, Miss Georgina Ferrars, is safe at home, and Georgina's internal world is plunged into chaos.

The Asylum is Victorian Gothic. It’s a slow read that delves deeply into a young woman’s psyche and life, not only her life, but the lives of her family as a host of secrets kept come out from behind the curtain of the past as Georgina struggles to make sense of her situation. There were times when I wondered what the story I was reading had to do with Georgina finding out who she really was, or if this was indeed more of a rambling character study, and then the end is upon you and the pieces slide into place.

The plotting was sublime. It wasn’t until memories of Lucia returned to Georgina that I began to guess what was happening, and still did not quite guess it all. Again, this tale does unfold slowly, too slowly at times, but I hung in there and was glad for it. There are some inconsistencies at the end as Harwood ties up loose story lines, but they aren’t distracting. All in all, The Asylum was a good change of pace for me. It read more like a mystery than a horror story, I thought.

Has anyone else read it? Would love to discuss the ending with someone.

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