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About the book
  • Published: 2 June 2014
  • ISBN: 9781742757285
  • Imprint: Vintage Australia
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $19.99

The Asylum

Harwood has a gift for creating suspense, apparently effortlessly. Ruth Rendell. A gothic suspense novel that will keep you in its grip until the final page.

Harwood has a gift for creating suspense, apparently effortlessly. Ruth Rendell. A gothic suspense novel that will keep you in its grip until the final page.

Georgina Ferrars, a young woman living quietly with her uncle in London, wakes to find herself in a private asylum 200 miles away on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, with no memory of the past six weeks. Dr Straker, the charismatic physician in charge, tells her that she has suffered a seizure – and that her name is not Georgina Ferrars, but Lucy Ashton. A telegram from her uncle confirms that Georgina Ferrars is still in London. Her protests only serve to convince the doctors that she is in the grip of ‘hysterical possession’, and Georgina is certified insane.

So begins The Asylum, a gothic suspense novel set in late Victorian England. With no friends, no money, and no one she dare trust, Georgina is left with only her stubborn determination to find out what happened during those missing weeks, no matter how terrifying the consequences.

  • Pub date: 2 June 2014
  • ISBN: 9781742757285
  • Imprint: Vintage Australia
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $19.99

About the Author

John Harwood

John Harwood was born in Hobart, Tasmania. Educated in Tasmania and Cambridge, he went on to become Head of the School of English and Drama at Flinders University, Adelaide. He is the author of two books of criticism, Olivia Shakespear and W. B. Yeats and Eliot to Derrida: The Poverty of Interpretation and the novels The Ghost Writer and The Séance.

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Praise for The Asylum

“A deliciously spooky pastiche of the high and low Gothic traditions and the tender heroines who live and die by them.”

Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review

“Harwood has not only a successful career as a literary scholar behind him, but also an impeccable literary pedigree as the son of Australian poet Gwen Harwood. He's ideally equipped by both nature and nurture to produce the vivid, imaginative, well-structured and well-informed novels that are quietly building his reputation.”

Kerryn Goldsworthy, The Sydney Morning Herald

“Readers are guaranteed a thoroughly diverting time in Harwood’s not-to-be-trusted hands. The creaking apparatus of the Victorian novel of suspense is given an energetic shaking-up. We are perhaps not quite as ready to be led up the garden path as the Victorians. But the fact that Harwood trots us up and down that path in a dizzying dance – and that we love every minute of it – proves his casual command of this shamelessly enjoyable idiom.”

Barry Forshaw, The Independent

“A twisting tale of greed, deceit and betrayal.”

Fran Metcalf, The Daily Telegraph

“In The Asylum, the latest dark suspense novel from John Harwood, the author manages to walk a fine line between Gothic romance and contemporary psychological thriller. Or rather, he gambols gleefully along it, delighting his reader with familiar Gothic tropes while deftly interrogating his protagonist's own sense of her self. The Asylum is as dark and suspenseful as any good Gothic romance. John Harwood, masterfully toying with readers' expectations, engrosses them in its mystery and gives satisfaction at pretty much every turn.”

Benjamin Chandler, Australian Book Review

“The book is a psychological puzzle rather than story of detection, and the heroine's literal and figurative search for self offers the haunting pleasures of a Victorian novel of sensation as well as a rich modern meditation on identity.”

Suzanne Fox, Publishers Weekly

“Harwood has a talent amounting to genius for channelling the spirit of 19th-century sensation fiction. It’s all here: maverick science, threats to personal identity, missing wills, lost heirs, illegitimate children and a pervasive sense of unease, of threats half-seen. The prose is an unusually good Victorian pastiche, a rare pleasure in the Gothic genre.”

Andrew Taylor, The Spectator

“In this suspenseful gothic thriller set in late Victorian England, John Harwood has clearly had fun with the genre while creating a compelling page-turner with enough plot twists and turns to keep you reading into the night. Skilfully told from the viewpoints of the main female characters via a combination of first-person narrative, a journal and letters, this is a novel about love, greed, madness and memory, and about women and their options - or lack of them. I couldn't tear myself away from this book, and its mysteries.”

Paula Grunseit, Australian Bookseller + Publisher

“Comparisons have been drawn between Harwood's work and that of Wilkie Collins, Emily Bronte and Mary Shelley. It is a big compliment, but certainly deserved. He does use an element somewhat foreign to Victorian works - a thread of erotic scenes - but they fit in seamlessly. Harwood is able to maintain suspense throughout The Asylum.”

Anya Whitelaw, Western Advocate, Bathurst

“Highly recommended.”

Barbara Farrelly, South Coast Register

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