Synopses & Reviews
“Harwood, master of creeping Victorian horror, does it again . . . Twisted in every sense of the word and wonderfully atmospheric.”—Booklist
Confused and disoriented, Georgina Ferrars awakens in a small room in Tregannon House, a remote asylum in 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, 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 uncles house? Georginas 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.
“Redolent with a sense of foreboding . . . This gothic tale will sweep you up into the very heart of Victorian England. A splendid read!”—Historical Novel Society, Editors Choice
“A richly textured . . . [and] masterfully constructed narrative . . . Readers are guaranteed a thoroughly diverting time in Harwoods not-to-be-trusted hands.”—The Independent (UK)
“The crisp prose and twisty plot will encourage many to read this in one sitting.”—Publishers Weekly
Praise for The Ghost Writer
“Elegantly paced and delightfully macabre, [The Ghost Writer] celebrate[s] the Victorian school and its obsession with the pasts authority over the present, the thin line between affection and obsession, the glimpse of the lurid from the corner of the eye.”—Washington Post Book World
“The Ghost Writer manages to evoke both the confident past and the more anguished present of the genre, and even to suggest, slyly, that although the illustrious tradition of the genteel British ghost story remains with us, we need to be very, very careful about disturbing its rest.”—New York Times Book Review
PRAISE FOR THE GHOST WRITER
"[Harwood's] novel is an homage, a Victorian ghost story that honors the likes of Dickens and Henry James . . . A smart, stylish and mesmerizing book."-THE WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD
"Does [Alice] have some connection to Gerard's creepy, semi-insane mom? And to those Victorian horror tales that Gerard keeps stumbling across? What's she hiding, anyway? The answers are yes, yes, and wait and see . . . It's like A. S. Byatt's Possession. But without all that distracting poetry."-TIME
"Author of The Seance (2009) and The Ghost Writer (2004), Harwood, master of creeping Victorian horror, does it again in his latest tale of pervasive evil and madness. Tregannon House in the Cornwall countryside was not always an asylum, but, having been in the hands of weak-minded, ailing owners over generations, it now houses insane and depressed mental patients under the care and control of Dr. Maynard Straker. Unfortunately, Miss Georgina Ferrars is neither mad nor voluntarily committed. She awakens in a locked cell lacking memory of how she arrived and not knowing where she is, though she is certain of her identity. But the staff is convinced shes Lucy Ashton and insist that she stay until she recovers her “correct” memory. The reader begins to question Georgina/Lucys narrative reliability as the story progresses: Is she lying or is the kindly doctor serving some evil purpose? Twisted in every sense of the word and wonderfully atmospheric, this dark psychological tale shocks by degree until truth of a sort is revealed, in a style similar to that of Joanne Harris Sleep, Pale Sister and D. J. Taylors Kept."--Booklist
"As he did in The Ghost Writer and The Séance, Australian author Harwood evokes Charles Palliser and Louis Bayard in his engrossing third stand-alone Victorian thriller. In the first sentence, Georgina Ferrars declares, “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 on a strange bed, afraid to open my eyes for fear of what I might see.” Alas, Georgina finds herself in a Cornwall asylum, whose sinister director, Dr. Maynard Straker, tells her that she arrived the previous day, November 1, 1882, and identified herself as 21-year-old Lucy Ashton. With no memory of the previous six weeks, Georgina is hard-pressed to refute Straker. Only gradually do the events that led to her confinement become clear. The crisp prose and twisty plot will encourage many to read this in one sitting, though the ending wont satisfy everyone."--Publishers Weekly
"The woman who awakens from a long sleep to find herself in a mental asylum in Cornwall knows herself to be Georgina Ferrars, an unmarried woman who lives with her uncle, a bookseller in the Bloomsbury section of London. But the head of the asylum swears she presented herself as Lucy Ashton (after the tragic heroine of Sir Walter Scotts feverish novel, "The Bride of Lammermoor"), and the uncle in London insists that his niece, Georgina, is at that moment under his roof. Working with a plot drawn from Wilkie Collinss "Woman in White," Harwood puts together a deliciously spooky pastiche of the high and low Gothic traditions and the tender heroines who live and die by them."
-- New York Times Book Review
"Author of The Seance and The Ghost Writer, Harwood, master of creeping Victorian horror, does it again in his latest tale of pervasive evil and madness. . . Twisted in every sense of the word and wonderfully atmospheric, this dark psychological tale shocks by degree until truth of a sort is revealed."--Booklist
"Harwood evokes Charles Palliser and Louis Bayard in his engrossing third stand-alone Victorian thriller. . . .. The crisp prose and twisty plot will encourage many to read this in one sitting."--Publishers Weekly
"There are mirrors here, an insane asylum, and enough startling coincidences to make you think Harwood was actually writing this in late Victorian England, where the novel is set. There are even a dark, brooding hero and a diabolical villain, assuming they are who they appear to be. . . . The Asylum is as dark and suspenseful as any good Gothic romance." -- Australian Book Review
"A deliciously spooky pastiche of the high and low Gothic traditions and the tender heroines who live and die by them."
—New York Times Book Review
"Harwood, master of creeping Victorian horror, does it again. . . Twisted in every sense of the word and wonderfully atmospheric, this dark psychological tale shocks by degree until truth of a sort is revealed in a style similar to that of Joanne Harris' Sleep, Pale Sister and D.J. Taylor's Kept."
"Harwood evokes Charles Palliser and Louis Bayard in his engrossing third stand-alone Victorian thriller. . . The crisp prose and twisty plot will encourage many to read this in one sitting."
"With Harwood's beguiling pastiche The Asylum, we're once again in a contemporary version of the Victorian Gothic mystery, with a lineage that stretches back to Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White and beyond. Though it's not a comfortable place for the beleaguered heroine, readers are guaranteed a thoroughly diverting time in Harwood's not-to-be-trusted hands."
--The Independent (UK)
"Harwood's debut is a haunting literary gothic, a slow-building suspense thriller. Lyrical, labrynthine. An atmospheric paranormal thriller with many surprises."
"'The Ghost Writer," is a first-class creeper, a literary ghost story in the Victorian tradition."
"A compelling ghost story and an auspicious debut."
"Intricate and engrossing. Harwood raises the ghost of the Victorian ghost story. One ghoulishly absorbing read. B+." <br>
"Compulsively readable. A wonderful debut, evoking a century's worth of family history, by a multitalented and artistically ambidextrous newcomer."
"Spooky and gripping, a chilling tale sure to make your spine shiver on even the hottest summer day."
"A creepy literary mystery. A terrific debut, very accomplished and assured."
"The Ghost Writer" is a grand Victorian tale in which Gerard becomes increasingly certain something wicked his way comes.
"Combines suspense that keeps readers up with a literary voice that allows them to respect themselves in the morning."
"Sly nods to spooky literary spinsters - James' Miss Jessel, Dickens's Miss Havisham - set the tone for this confident debut."
"By the last page, all loose ends have been tied up, but the uncanny still clings to everything."
"You can't help being dazzled by Harwood's inventiveness, especially his sure-footed mastery of prose style. [An] entertainingly accomplished first novel."
"A fabulous, very spooky ghost story in the classic mode that will remind some people of A.S. Byatt's "Possession."<br>
"As a mystery, The Ghost Writer is irresistible, pushing all the genre's gothic buttons and casting a convincingly Dickensian pall."
"An elegant homage to the Victorian ghost story tradition. Like Dickens's The Pickwick Papers, Harwood makes your flesh creep."
"An exceptionally inventive first novel."
"Harwood has written a smart, stylish and mesmerizing book."
A haunting tale of apparitions, a cursed manor house, and two generations of women determined to discover the truth, by the author of The Ghost Writer Sell the Hall unseen; burn it to the ground and plow the earth with salt, if you will; but never live there . . .” Constance Langton grows up in a household marked by death, her father distant, her mother in perpetual mourning for Constances sister, the child she lost.Desperate to coax her mother back to health, Constance takes her to a séance: perhaps she will find comfort from beyond the grave. But the meeting has tragic consequences. Constance is left alone, her only legacy a mysterious bequest that will blight her life.
So begins The Séance, John Harwoods brilliant second novel, a gripping, dark mystery set in late-Victorian England.
It is a world of apparitions, of disappearances and unnatural phenomena, of betrayal and blackmail and black-hearted villainsand murder. For Constances bequest comes in two parts: a house and a mystery. Years before, a family disappeared atWraxford Hall, a decaying mansion in the English countryside with a sinister reputation.Now the Hall belongs to Constance. And she must descend into the darkness at the heart of theWraxford Mystery to find the truth, even at the cost of her life.
In this tantalizing tale of Victorian ghost stories and family secrets, timid, solitary librarian Gerard Freeman lives for just two things: his elusive pen pal Alice and a story he found hidden in his mother's drawer years ago. Written by his great-grandmother Viola, it hints at his mother's role in a sinister crime. As he discovers more of Viola's chilling tales, he realizes that they might hold the key to finding Alice and unveiling his family's mystery-or will they bring him the untimely death they seem to foretell?
Harwood's astonishing, assured debut shows us just how dangerous family skeletons-and stories-can be.
A brilliant new Gothic thriller from the acclaimed author of The Ghost Writer and The Seance.
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, 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 uncles 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? Georginas 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.
Another delicious read from the author praised by Ruth Rendell as having “a gift for creating suspense, apparently effortlessly, as if it belongs in the nature of fiction.”
About the Author
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.