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 sense of her own self. 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. But at its heart this novel concerns one woman’s struggles with her own identity, one she is only barely aware of herself. That woman’s name is Georgina Ferrars. Or is it?
Benjamin Chandler holds a PhD in Creative Writing and Fantasy. He writes Young Adult Fiction and has published academic work on popular culture, video game narrative theory, Japanese heroism, anime and manga, and Creative Writing pedagogy. Every now and then he teaches Creative Writing, English Literature, and Media Studies topics at the University of Adelaide and Flinders University.