Top positive review
Victorian gothic - subtle psychological horror
on 1 April 2016
A young woman wakes up in a lunatic asylum. Pretty much all she can remember is that her name is Georgina Ferrars - only everyone else is convinced she's Lucy Ashton. Who is she, and why is she there, since apparently she arrived and admitted herself as a voluntary patient of her own free will?
This book is a gothic novel in the Victorian mode, complete with deceptions, an old house in a desolate location, wicked relatives (and others), mistaken identities (obviously), two elopements, at least two wills (extra points to Harwood for a legal point he makes about the validity of wills on marriage), and mysterious instructions to a solicitor.
From a 21st century perspective, it all seems a bit overblown - there are definitely simpler ways to solve problems than those adopted by the characters in this novel. However, that's not really the point. This is Victorian gothic, and if you don't have mistaken identity, mysterious origins, inconvenient wills, and a heroine in Grave Peril, you are simply not trying hard enough.
Additionally, I think the book suffered in part because a major reason for Georgina's problems is her isolation - she's on her own with her problem, trying to establish her identity and not knowing whom she can trust. But relationships between characters in a book often provide an extra dimension beyond plot and storytelling skill, and that just wasn't available here.
All in all, however, this was a solid four stars for me - and it kept me reading until I finished it in one sitting (thank goodness for e-Readers with a frontlight). Harwood keeps the suspense going, and manages to give the subtly horrifying feeling of a hall of mirrors: how is Georgina to tell the difference between reality and deception, when she doesn't know which is which, and each seems to bleed into the other?
I felt the ending happened a little too neatly and and a little too suddenly, but it was a really good ride while it lasted.