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The Asylum Paperback – 16 June 2021
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'Vivid, disturbing and visceral, The Asylum is this year's must-read!' -- Ruby Speechley, author of A Mother Like You
'This twisty rollercoaster story made me desperate for Maud's salvation and yearn for her revenge. Utterly compelling' -- Kerry Fisher, author of The Woman I Was Before
'Evocative, menacing and darkly sinister. A brilliantly executed gothic thriller that will leave you breathless' -- Jane Isaac, international bestselling crime fiction author
'A historic novel that seethes with claustrophobia, trauma and thoughts of revenge. What a sophisticated and gripping tale' -- Fiona Mitchell, author of The Swap
About the Author
- Publisher : Welbeck (16 June 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1787395154
- ISBN-13 : 978-1787395152
- Dimensions : 12.8 x 3.3 x 19.7 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 369,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Maud is locked up in an asylum. They tell her she's violent and mad, and for all she can recall they might be right. Flashes of memory are meaningless and she instinctively despises and recoils from the doctor, so maybe she did do the things they said she's done.
A young and ambitious doctor chooses Maud as his patient, and hypnotises her in an effort to 'cure' her of her insanity. It is while she is under hypnosis that we travel into her past and discover, bit by bit, the painful truth.
The recollections are expertly woven into the story and perfectly paced. It's so rare to find a book that offers such wonderful writing yet does not lack in story. Especially a debut. All the characters were complex and rounded. The details and the richness of their character and how they interacted was true genius. We all know there is good and bad in all of us, it just depends where on that spectrum we sit. And nobody could go through the barbaric treatments of a lunatic asylum without leaving a lasting impression. Maud has flaws, of course she does, and by the end she shows signs that she is capable of being the person they have, for so long, said she is. That's what makes this read so real. As strong and intelligent as Maud is, she almost breaks. Not saying any more for fear of spoilers, but the book has a definite beginning, middle and concluding end.
They say a reader might forget a book's details, but never the way it makes them feel. Well this one left me feeling fortunate that, as a woman, I live in very different times. (Mind, I'm hoping each generation can keep fighting for true equality, there's still room for improvement.) We're no longer in the days when women are locked up for having children out of wedlock or considered to be too feeble-minded to think about anything other than domestic chores. Women had to be strong, but Maud proved stronger than most. A fantastic character. and a fantastic story. Buy this book. (The paperback for the incredible cover :))
However, the good thing about a book set in 1903 but written now is that no such barriers are in place and the female author has been free to write a modern gothic about an institutionalised woman who doesn't know how or why she is there. Heavily sedated and abused, she certainly presents as mentally ill - possibly schizophrenic and definitely deeply traumatised. Her new doctor wants to try the trendy French practice of hypnosis and this unearths memories that place her in great danger.
It's quite a straightforward plot really and yet the book is touching and enjoyable. Living near an asylum in Wales, Coles has done her research about the horrendous therapies and treatments and Maud is certainly treated to all of them.
Surprisingly, Coles has excelled at crafting Maud as an unreliable narrator. At the start of the novel, she is drugged, untrusting and has amnesia. She wants to remember but can't and this drives her mad. Later on she does remember but is afraid to say and this makes her behaviour erratic. Later still, she wishes to defend what is hers and this makes her violent and desperate. Seeking revenge, she certainly acts with premeditated strangeness.
The book is reminiscent of famous gothic short stories, like Poe's 'The Tell-Tale Heart' and Chopin's 'The Yellow Wallpaper. It's not quite as good because of course Poe and Chopin were masters in their class and were shocking society just by writing about these things. Karen Coles isn't breaking boundaries or shaking-up society - but she has written a great book (with a gorgeous cover) with, touches of historical accuracy and a satisfying ending.
The author really makes you feel for Maud and i desperately wanted to find out what had happened to her. This book feels like a classic to me, and I can imagine myself reading it over and over again, I miss the characters already and wish there was more to read!