Title: The Asylum
Author: John Harwood
Genre: Psychological thriller, historical fiction, Gothic thriller
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review download through Audiobook Jukebox‘s reviewer program
Audiobook reader: Rosalyn Landor
Audiobook length: 10 hours and 14 minutes
First line: I woke, as it seemed, from a nightmare of being stretched on the rack, only to sink into another dream in which I was lying in a strange bed, afraid to open my eyes for fear of what I might see.
Goodreads blurb: 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, 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 writing case containing her journal, the only record of those missing weeks? Georgina’s perilous quest to free herself takes us 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.
Lately, I’ve read and/or listened to a few books that have unreliable narrators, and I always seem to enjoy that particular literary device. In this case, Georgina is unreliable because she has lost part of her memory. She is sure of who she is, but can’t remember the past six weeks of her life. Her psychiatrist is convinced that she is an impostor, but her memories of growing up as Georgina are so vivid, so real.
The longer Georgina spends in the asylum, the more she begins to give in to despair – until a discovery reaffirms her belief that she is who she says she is. The cause of her memory loss and hospitalization is slowly revealed, and kept me guessing until the end. The ending was a bit abrupt for me, but that didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the book.
Rosalyn Landor is one of my favorite female British narrators, and she was a terrific choice to tell Georgina’s story. My first experience with her work was the first Bess Crawford mystery, and I have since listened to several books that she narrated. I especially appreciate the fact that she has a depth to her voice that allows her to voice the male characters without sounding strange.