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The Unpierced Heart [Paperback]

Katy Darby
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
Price: 7.19 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

13 Sep 2012

First published in trade paperback as The Whores' Asylum, The Unpierced Heart is a thrilling, gothic debut by Katy Darby.

Oxford, 1887: brilliant medical student Stephen Chapman volunteers at a shelter devoted to reforming fallen women, where he meets and falls for Diana, a girl who has broken hearts and inspired deadly duels. His best friend Edward sees her as a dangerous temptress, but Stephen believes she is a wronged woman. What secrets does Diana hold, and what will happen when Stephen strays further into unknown and forbidden territory?

So begins a bloody and lusty tale of ill-lit streets and seedy taverns, of harlots and drunkards, of the highest in the land seeking out the lowest kind of depravity, of desperate murder and scandalous orgies, and of an innocent trapped in a world of passion and sin.

'Darby knows how to write a cracking novel . . . Darkly enjoyable' Metro

'Debut novelist Katy Darby has wrought a truly gothic little gem that could almost have fallen through a wormhole, 125 years ago... Darby manages to retain the flavour of the authors she so obviously admires - Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle - but at the same time establishes her own voice and creates a contemporary narrative . . . a rare achievement' Independent on Sunday

'Thrilling gothic romance' Daily Express

Katy Darby studied English Literature at Somerville College, Oxford, and Creative Writing at U.E.A. where she received the David Higham Award. Her fiction has been read on BBC Radio, and she has published stories in Slice, Mslexia and The London Magazine, as well as winning prizes in several international fiction competitions. She teaches writing at City University, edits the short story magazine Litro (www.litro.co.uk) and co-runs the monthly live fiction event Liars' League (www.liarsleague.com). She lives in London.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (13 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241954223
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241954225
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 18.6 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 459,606 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A compelling tale of death, despair and obsession . . . Wildly and knowingly melodramatic but done with such energy and ingenuity that it's also tremendous fun (Sunday Times)

Richly atmospheric and rattling away in fine style, it conjures 19th century high society and its sordid underbelly with verve and flair . . . Darby knows how to write a cracking novel . . . Darkly enjoyable (Metro)

This book really is a thing of beauty - and that's before you even open the cover . . . The illusion is maintained inside, because the debut novelist Katy Darby has wrought a truly gothic little gem that could almost have fallen through a wormhole, 125 years ago... Darby manages to retain the flavour of the authors she so obviously admires - Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle - but at the same time establishes her own voice and creates a contemporary narrative . . . a rare achievement (Independent on Sunday)

A consistently engaging and suspenseful Gothic melodrama (Herald)

Thrilling gothic romance (Daily Express)

About the Author

Katy Darby studied English Literature at Somerville College, Oxford, and Creative Writing at U.E.A. where she received the David Higham Award. Her fiction has been read on BBC Radio, and she has published stories in Slice, Mslexia and The London Magazine, as well as winning prizes in several international fiction competitions. She teaches writing at City University, edits the short story magazine Litro (www.litro.co.uk) and co-runs the monthly live fiction event Liars' League (www.liarsleague.com). She lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Shadows in Victorian Oxford 4 Feb 2012
By Gregory S. Buzwell TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Edward Fraser is, in spite of his youth, something of a dry old stick so when his closest friend at Oxford University, Stephen Chapman, lets his medical studies take second place to his volunteer work at a shelter for fallen women Edward is understandably concerned. Even worse, the main attraction in this line of work for Stephen appears to be the lady who runs the shelter - Diana Pelham - someone Edward suspects, with very strong reason, of having a rather shady past herself. The thing is, are Edward's fears for his friend justified or does he simply want to keep Stephen to himself and away from the lures of attractive females? Where exactly do his interests and motives lie? Edward isn't quite the straight-forward narrator he seems and while Diana Pelham clearly has a secret to hide is she wicked or merely misunderstood?

The Whores' Asylum is the first novel by Katy Darby and all in all it has quite a lot going for it. The action sequences, and the moments which have a touch of the macabre and the surreal in particular are all well handled. The book features an enraged bear dressed in a sort of harlequin outfit and kept prisoner in a cellar; it has scenes of shabby well-to-do men wearing masks and making free with ladies of the night in plush, velvet-draped rooms and it has, best of all to my mind, a description of a duel taking place one foggy morning which packs a real emotional punch; but where, for me, the book suffers slightly is with the pacing. I suspect the novel could lose twenty pages or so and would, if some of the descriptions of what the characters were thinking and feeling emotionally were slightly pared back, rattle along all the better for it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fully involving - a great read. 20 Mar 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a compelling story set mostly in the wrong side of Victorian Oxford. One of our main viewpoints through which the story is told is a rather prudish academic priest, and his voice is convincing enough that I found myself utterly involved in the story and somewhat genuinely annoyed with some of the characters - it's not often a book draws me in so well. It's not necessarily a light read ... many sections are rather exacting in their detail ... but I never felt like the story dragged. If you've enjoyed stories like Sarah Walter's Fingersmith, Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, or Gormenghast, then I highly recommend this. An easy five stars.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I've read so far this year 5 Mar 2012
By Achtel
Format:Paperback
I was utterly fascinated by this book, could barely put it down and was looking for excuses where possible to find more time to read.

A book written in five parts, each part giving additional angles to the underlying story, but from a different protagonist. In every part of the book you feel sympathetic to the current protagonist, you share their opinion and heartache, trouble, worries, fear. It's an amazing example of how the same story can appear completely different depending on who tell it. But each part doesn't just repeat the same story over and over again but gives more depth to the reader's understanding of motives, history etc.

Truly amazing book that will stay on my bookshelf and that I will no doubt read again!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric but a bit too long 9 Jun 2012
By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Mostly The Whore's Asylum is a fantastic, rich, atmospheric book. It is a Victorian gothic mystery that, for the first four and a half sections is every bit the equal of Sarah Waters. We see two men - Edward Foster and Stephen Chapman, one scholar of divinity and the other a scholar of medicine - called on a mission to save the fallen women of Oxford. Thus, they let their ties to the university and the tranquility of Worcester College lake lapse and take up residence in the squalid suburb of Jericho - a rabbit warren of cottages and terraces slotted in between the canal and the Radcliffe Infirmary, the haunt of women of dubious morals, low public houses and Lucy's Ironworks. Their motives are not exactly clear and become even more opaque when Foster runs into a woman he once knew in Cambridge...

The novel is then chunked into five narratives , some in the past and some in the present, offering different viewpoints to the stories of bluff and double bluff. It is very well done indeed. The story is highly gothic and over the top, but remains intriguing because of the richness of the characters and their complex motives. Even the most stylised characters turn out to have hidden depths.

Where the novel doesn't quite succeed is the pacing. For four and a half sections the pacing is right. But the fifth section - the one which brings things together - is too long. In any mystery, once the truth is revealed, the story is over and needs to be brought home as quickly as possible. Katy Darby instead ploughs on for at least sixty superfluous pages including an unnecessary and interminable series of postscripts. Sure, the final pages do offer some food for thought but it takes far too long to get there and the Victorian novel didn't need to be prolonged into the 20th century.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Slow starter but improves 24 Mar 2012
By Angela Lovelace VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Set in the late Victorian period, The Whore's Asylum is a story told from more than one view point, its three main protagonists Edward Fraser, a rather moralistic young man who is almost pious to a great fault, his friend and companion Stephen Chapman, a whore's doctor and a woman, Diana Cornell that runs a place for fallen women.

The book is listed as being a tragedy in five parts and it is set out in five books, telling the story of the main characters as well as other people involved.

The story is told mostly from Edward Fraser's POV and starts with him writing an account of events from the past to his son. Fraser is in poor health and wishes to make his son aware of things from his past.

The story is written in a very unsentimental style, which is not a bad thing and I think it could appeal to men as well as women because of that. You feel annoyance at times at the principle character Edward Fraser for his unrelenting sense of right and wrong and the inability to see beyond that and judge people accordingly. it is only through a series of events that his manner is softened, although his affection for his friend Stephen Chapman is his saving grace.

The harsh realities of the seedy area of Oxford, nicknamed "Jericho" are painted in the book, although as more of a backdrop of where most of the story takes place than to add to it. By the time you have finished, you have a very different view of the character from when you set out on their journey. It is a tale of hardship, love and reality of the times.

To be honest, it took me at least a 100 pages in before the story really grabbed me, although it was well written, it had rather a slow pace to it. I liked it, but found it a bit of a plod in places and it was not until the last 100 pages or so that I found it hard to put down so I could get to the conclusion of the tale.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't stop
A skilfully written and extremely enjoyable novel filled with colourful characters and evocative Gothic settings. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Chloecatcheryl2011
4.0 out of 5 stars good, but slightly affected
Really enjoyed the character development, the settings, and the storyline. I thought the illustrations made it seem a bit tacky though. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jimmy
5.0 out of 5 stars THE UNPIERCED HEART
I absolutely loved this book, it held my attention from start to finish. It is intelligently written with a great plot about a forbidden subject. Read more
Published 4 months ago by TRENDYWENDY
3.0 out of 5 stars Whore's Asylum
I found the book dragged and dragged on. Never quitting reading a book, I struggled to finish, often jumping from page to page to finally get to the end. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Ms Claire Beattie
5.0 out of 5 stars An unexpected treat.
The Whores Asylum is an interesting and intriguingly title - which I hope hooks people to read. I will not spoil the tale for future readers but will give a synopsis and give my... Read more
Published 11 months ago by L. mckay
2.0 out of 5 stars Nothing like the 'blurb'!
From the description I expected a raunchy and gritty tale of the depths of victorian life. I enjoy Sarah Waters, Emma Donaghue, Michael Faber and was expecting a similar plot and... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Dawn B
2.0 out of 5 stars An ok read only.
A shame, as the title tempted me in expecting so much more than was delivered. I always feel rather rude criticising a book - how many have I had published? That would be none. Read more
Published 11 months ago by sulkycat
4.0 out of 5 stars Unpierced Asylum
First, the change of the title between the hardback and the paperback (Unpierced Heart PB is the Whores Asylum HB) is annoying and unhelpful when buying a book. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Remnant
5.0 out of 5 stars and rich and heart breaking story
Highly recommend this rich, engaging, gothic story. I finished as quickly as possible so I could post it to a friend "desperate for a good yarn". Read more
Published 12 months ago by Fanny Peculiar
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
Excellent storytelling from various characters' perspectives; I couldn't put it down!
highly recommended; thrilling; passionate; sad; and lots more !!
Published 14 months ago by corinne owen
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