The Crow Garden
'There's an amazing sense of place and time in this novel, as Littlewood perfectly captures the literary style, attitudes, and class consciousness of Victorian England' - Publishers Weekly Susan Hill meets Alfred Hitchcock in Alison Littlewood's latest chiller: mad-doctor Nathaniel is obsessed with the beautiful Mrs Harleston - but is she truly delusional? Or is she hiding secrets that should never be uncovered ...? Haunted by his father's suicide, Nathaniel Kerner walks away from the highly prestigious life of a consultant to become a mad-doctor. He takes up a position at Crakethorne Asylum, but the proprietor is more interested in phrenology and his growing collection of skulls than the patients' minds. Nathaniel's only interesting case is Mrs Victoria Harleston: her husband accuses her of hysteria and delusions - but she accuses him of hiding secrets far more terrible. Nathaniel is increasingly obsessed with Victoria, but when he has her mesmerised, there are unexpected results: Victoria starts hearing voices, the way she used to - her grandmother always claimed they came from beyond the grave - but it also unleashes her own powers of mesmerism ...and a desperate need to escape. Increasingly besotted, Nathaniel finds himself caught up in a world of seances and stage mesmerism in his bid to find Victoria and save her. But constantly hanging over him is this warning: that doctors are apt to catch the diseases with which they are surrounded - whether of the body or the mind

The Crow Garden Details

TitleThe Crow Garden
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseOct 5th, 2017
PublisherQuercus Publishing
ISBN-139781786485250
Rating
GenreHorror, Historical, Historical Fiction, Gothic, Adult, Mystery

The Crow Garden Review

  • Lucy Banks
    January 1, 1970
    I received a copy of this book from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.Dark, classically Victorian in tone, but *slightly* predictable in places.Firstly, let's talk about that book title, and that cover. Both magnificent. How could I resist such a sinister-sounding novel, especially a period piece, with asylums, seductions and deception? For the most part, the book delivered on its promises, and was a satisfying read, with just a few little parts that had minor issues. The story starts I received a copy of this book from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.Dark, classically Victorian in tone, but *slightly* predictable in places.Firstly, let's talk about that book title, and that cover. Both magnificent. How could I resist such a sinister-sounding novel, especially a period piece, with asylums, seductions and deception? For the most part, the book delivered on its promises, and was a satisfying read, with just a few little parts that had minor issues. The story starts at an asylum in bleak Yorkshire, where a doctor commences his career; focusing on a well-to-do woman who also happens to be rather beautiful. Their relationship develops and shifts throughout the book, framed within some wonderfully evocative locations; the eerie 'Crow Garden' outside the asylum, the Egyptian Hall in London, the stillness of the mother's house. It's pleasingly ambiguous at times, which gives the reader plenty of chance to engage in some guesswork, and it reads like a classic, enjoyable gothic novel; spooky, compelling and intriguing. Just a few minor comments - the use of the asylum itself... perhaps one of those locations that is starting to feel a little predictable for Victorian-style books? I was delighted when the author took the action out of the asylum and into the wider world, as it instantly established itself as something 'different' then - though perhaps this is just me having a somewhat jaded view on much-used locations in books! Also, there were occasions where I found it a little tricky to suspend my disbelief; but to be honest, I tend not to judge too harshly on these types of things, as long as they don't obstruct the narrative flow! Overall, an entertaining read, and I enjoyed the author's style of storytelling very much.
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  • David Harris
    January 1, 1970
    I'm grateful to the publisher for an advance copy of this book.In Littlewood's latest horror story we are back in Victorian England, visiting that quintessential Gothic location (second, perhaps, to the ruined Priory), the lunatic asylum.Dr Nathaniel Kerner has taken up a post at Crakethorne Asylum, described most encouragingly in the opening chapter: a brooding, chilly building beset by wind and haunted by the crows after which it is named (Grey stone was unleavened by lightness or decoration") I'm grateful to the publisher for an advance copy of this book.In Littlewood's latest horror story we are back in Victorian England, visiting that quintessential Gothic location (second, perhaps, to the ruined Priory), the lunatic asylum.Dr Nathaniel Kerner has taken up a post at Crakethorne Asylum, described most encouragingly in the opening chapter: a brooding, chilly building beset by wind and haunted by the crows after which it is named (Grey stone was unleavened by lightness or decoration") and presided over the Dr Chettle who, we soon learn, has little interest in his patients and spends most of his time pursuing phrenology - even then, a marginal and quackish science. Kerner has tragedies in his own past and is driven to earn the (posthumous) approval of his discredited father, indeed one might think he's not the most stable and suitable of characters to be treating the "insane" (as they're labelled).Despite this, Kerner's ideas of treatment by talking seem modern and enlightened compared with the regimes of blisters, bleeding, electric shocks and cold baths apparently in vogue at the time. The book is sharp in its perceptions, discussing what's almost a hierarchy of establishments practicing more or less modern or primitive treatments, and of the way this plays into the choices made by those responsible for committing unfortunate relatives to their "care".In particular, Kerner's life is to become entangled with that of Mrs Victoria Harleston, committed for shrinking form performing her "wifely duties". Mr Harleston is eager that his wife be brought to obedience and presses Kerner and Chettle to do whatever is necessary. The scenes in which Littlewood exposes the situation of a woman at the mercy of the (male) law and society are some of the most chilling I've read in fiction, supernatural or otherwise - but that isn't the end of this story. Rather there is much, much to be told with Victoria herself emerging as a fascinating, passionate and contradictory character - especially compared with poor Nathaniel who's mostly two steps behind her. (indeed, as a viewpoint character he can become a bit tiresome at times, with his assumptions about women's fragility and a rather touchy ego to boot - at others his pomposity becomes almost endearing).Littlewood uses a clever motif to explore Victoria and Nathaniel's relationship, quoting from Byron (for her) and Robert Browning (for him). These are their preferred poets (the good Doctor rather huffily confiscating her book of Byron's verse which he declares unsuitable and likely to make her delusions worse) and indeed as the story proceeds they take to referring to "my poet" or "your poet", the subtlety of the relationship marked by Kerner's beginning to see more passionate depths in his Browning that he had realised before. The whole effect has something of the Gothic romance - and claustrophobia - of Wuthering Heights combined with the menace of Wilkie Collins or Dickens exposing the cruelty of the Victorian mental health system. At the same time, this system is contrasted with short but spells that do, indeed, promise "asylum" from the darkness without, moments when the reader does begin to hope for some good resolution.Reading over this I realise I have said anything about the supernatural elements in the book - well, they are there, contributing especially to the brooding menace of the final part but in this story the burden of the horror is, I think, really borne by darkness that emanates from humanity. The questions the story raises - about sanity, madness and evil - are independent of whatever it is those restless crow spirits may be up to, and in the end, it's man (or Man) who is the monster here, I think.An excellent, chilling, autumn read, all about the dangers of power, obsession, and guilt, this is sure to be another hit from Littlewood to follow up The Hidden People.
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  • Joseph
    January 1, 1970
    4.5*Following the folklore-soaked mystery “The Hidden People”, Alison Littlewood returns to the Victorian era with her latest book, “The Crow Garden”. The novel’s narrator is Nathaniel Kerner, a young “alienist” or “mad-doctor”, who has found a placing as under-physician at Crakethorne Manor, a remote asylum in desolate, rural Yorkshire. The son of a doctor, Kerner has his demons to exorcise – he still feels guilty about having, when still a boy, indirectly encouraged his father’s suicide. This 4.5*Following the folklore-soaked mystery “The Hidden People”, Alison Littlewood returns to the Victorian era with her latest book, “The Crow Garden”. The novel’s narrator is Nathaniel Kerner, a young “alienist” or “mad-doctor”, who has found a placing as under-physician at Crakethorne Manor, a remote asylum in desolate, rural Yorkshire. The son of a doctor, Kerner has his demons to exorcise – he still feels guilty about having, when still a boy, indirectly encouraged his father’s suicide. This gives him the incentive to prove himself as a “progressive” physician, a proponent of a more humane approach to the treatment of psychological problems. The asylum director, Doctor Chettle, is not too keen about Kerner’s methods, preferring his own phrenological theories and experiments with electric shock treatments. Yet, he gives Kerner a free hand with their latest patient, the “hysterical” Mrs Victoria Harleston, who has been admitted at the behest of her husband. Harleston claims that she is haunted by the ghost of her husband’s son, and that she has the gift of conversing with the dead. After initial sessions with the patient leave little effect, Kerner invites a “mesmerist” in the hope of curing Harleston. The session, however, has unexpected consequences, leaving Kerner in doubt as to whether Harleston is really mad or whether there might be some truth in her allegations and imaginings.The novel shifts between the mists of Yorkshire and the thick, industrial fog of London; between the oppressive ambience of the mental asylum and the creepy goings-on of the City’s “spiritualist” circles. These settings are well researched and, apart from building a chilling atmosphere, they also give us an authentic snapshot of 19th Century life. The Victorian era however does not merely provide a backdrop to the plot. On the contrary, I felt that the novel is itself a tribute to the popular novels of the time, particularly those of a Gothic, supernatural bent. The narrative voice and dialogue are perfectly pitched – they could have come out of Dickens or, better still, Wilkie Collins. There are also plenty of Gothic tropes – ghostly manifestations, noctural perambulations in grimy streets, madness, obsession and (with more than a nod to “The Woman in White”) the wife placed in an asylum against her will. And as with the best supernatural fiction, there is that constant niggling doubt as to whether the allegedly otherworldly manifestations are all a product of the mind. Some of Wilkie Collins’s works had a radical (for their time), proto-feminist message. I feel that Littlewood cannily taps into this vein, giving her Victorian novel a more contemporary flavour and going beyond mere pastiche. Her subject-matter and approach – making the 19th Century relevant and appealing to contemporary readers – reminded me of Sarah Waters’s brilliant early novels “Fingersmith” and “Affinity”. “The Crow Garden” certainly deserves to share a shelf with them.
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  • Karen Mace
    January 1, 1970
    I received a copy of this from the publishers in return for a fair and honest review.The creepy cover sets the tone for this story set in Victorian England and focusing on the asylum/madhouses of the time. The way the patients were treated and how those treating them saw them - some of the methods used were quite horrifying and is fascinating to see how times have changed in how we treat those with mental illness.It follows the story of Nathaniel Kerner, who has his own memories of madness in th I received a copy of this from the publishers in return for a fair and honest review.The creepy cover sets the tone for this story set in Victorian England and focusing on the asylum/madhouses of the time. The way the patients were treated and how those treating them saw them - some of the methods used were quite horrifying and is fascinating to see how times have changed in how we treat those with mental illness.It follows the story of Nathaniel Kerner, who has his own memories of madness in the family, and with the ghost of his fathers' suicide hanging over him, he sets out to right the wrongs he feels he was involved in, despite only being a child at the time of this fathers' death, and he becomes a 'mad-doctor' to carry on where his father left off. He wants to help those and learn more of how the brain works, and he finds himself at Crakethorne Asylum in deepest, darkest Yorkshire where he encounters Mrs Victoria Harleston. She is a patient there due to her husband complaining of her 'hysteria' and wants her 'mended' - the Victoria that Nathaniel meets though seems anything but crazy, and he soon becomes obsessed with her.I really enjoyed the way this book is set - we get his point of view, his case notes and his own journal notes to see how he approaches those he meets, as well as looking back to his own past and dealing with his mother who, herself seems traumatized by the past.His approach to treatment leads him to the world of the mesmerists, or hypnotists as we now know them, and this unlocks a much darker side to the story which is more chilling than horrifying, as you are left guessing as to the validity of those mesmerists, and of the patients and their experiences.I found this to be such a hypnotic book to read - sorry for the pun! - with the wonderfully moody settings, the damaged characters and the insight to medical practices of the time. And there doesn't need to be actual monsters to create a horror story when there are people around who can be a lot scarier!!
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  • Thebooktrail
    January 1, 1970
    Visit the locations in the novel The Crow GardenGothic atmosphere, set in an asylum in the midst of the Yorkshire Moors….mesmerism in theatres in London? Well this couldn’t be more atmospheric if it tried. Having loved the Little People, I was keen to read this one and it’s a unique world Alison draws, thats for sure. She approaches the shockingly true story of how women could so easily be taken into asylums on the word of their husbands. The scenes – for this novel reads like a series of scenes Visit the locations in the novel The Crow GardenGothic atmosphere, set in an asylum in the midst of the Yorkshire Moors….mesmerism in theatres in London? Well this couldn’t be more atmospheric if it tried. Having loved the Little People, I was keen to read this one and it’s a unique world Alison draws, thats for sure. She approaches the shockingly true story of how women could so easily be taken into asylums on the word of their husbands. The scenes – for this novel reads like a series of scenes dimly lit with the sound of candles crackling in your ear, are horrific and even disturbing.The author also uses many literary references in the novel -with poets Brown and Byron being used to show each of the main characters personalities. The world of mesmerism is drawn with detailed and disturbing words and the overall effect for me was chilling, disturbing and a darn good gothic read.
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  • Chris Fowler
    January 1, 1970
    Physician, heal thyself...I'm a sucker for tales set in lunatic asylums and other institutions, so this was just the ticket for the first truly autumnal night. Dr Nathaniel Kerner takes a position at Crakethorn Manor, becomes fascinated by a bewitching young patient, Vita, and must deal with the her husband and the asylum's director. So what we have here is a Gothic Victorian Romantic Melodrama, with haunting Yorkshire atmosphere. The mansion is beset with symbolically sinister crows, madness is Physician, heal thyself...I'm a sucker for tales set in lunatic asylums and other institutions, so this was just the ticket for the first truly autumnal night. Dr Nathaniel Kerner takes a position at Crakethorn Manor, becomes fascinated by a bewitching young patient, Vita, and must deal with the her husband and the asylum's director. So what we have here is a Gothic Victorian Romantic Melodrama, with haunting Yorkshire atmosphere. The mansion is beset with symbolically sinister crows, madness is in the air and a bout of mesmerism brings forth deeper disturbances. Littlewood's linear, descriptive prose evokes the period nicely, there are some solid twists, and if there's never any real doubt about the outcome (such tales usually canter toward the same conclusion) it's a richly evocative tale packed with rising hackles, cold breaths on the neck and prickling skin.
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  • Rosina
    January 1, 1970
    I received a free copy of this book through Book Bridgr in return for an honest review.This book is difficult for me to rate. The Crow Garden was an immensely interesting read but one that I still struggled. I found the plot interesting and the aspects of psychology and the supernatural. I liked the little literary references and looking back on how things have changed but the writing style just wasn't for me.My preference on writing style aside, this is a mostly thought provoking read with some I received a free copy of this book through Book Bridgr in return for an honest review.This book is difficult for me to rate. The Crow Garden was an immensely interesting read but one that I still struggled. I found the plot interesting and the aspects of psychology and the supernatural. I liked the little literary references and looking back on how things have changed but the writing style just wasn't for me.My preference on writing style aside, this is a mostly thought provoking read with some interesting moments of horror and humour. If you like reads about asylums and mesmerism - what's essentially hypnotherapy today - then this will definitely be an interesting book for you.
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  • Lynn Williams
    January 1, 1970
    https://lynns-books.com/2017/10/23/th...The Crow Garden is a wonderfully evocative novel that brings to us a gothic story set in Victorian England. The story is positively bursting at the scenes with the trappings of a novel set in this era, asylums, mad doctors, mesmerists, ghosts and pea soup fog, and yet the author manages to inject new life into those tropes by introducing such an unusual story and at the same time giving, to my mind, a nod to maybe a couple of the classics. Wilkie Collins c https://lynns-books.com/2017/10/23/th...The Crow Garden is a wonderfully evocative novel that brings to us a gothic story set in Victorian England. The story is positively bursting at the scenes with the trappings of a novel set in this era, asylums, mad doctors, mesmerists, ghosts and pea soup fog, and yet the author manages to inject new life into those tropes by introducing such an unusual story and at the same time giving, to my mind, a nod to maybe a couple of the classics. Wilkie Collins certainly sprang to mind whilst reading this – although I’m not suggesting that the story is the same in any way – more the style of writing somehow, not to mention the theme of women being closeted into asylums when they became problematic to their husbands.At the start of the story we meet Nathaniel Kerner as he takes up his position at Crakethorne Asylum, a remote institution based in the wilds of Yorkshire. Perhaps Nathaniel was naive in taking this position, if first impressions are anything to go by that is. Crakethorne bares little resemblance to the material Nathaniel read prior to taking up his new role and his initial description puts you in mind of the foreboding Thornfield House from Jane Eyre. Crakethorne is a dark and ominous building, built with grey stone with no embellishments to soften it’s demeanour, set in unkempt grounds that play home to the many crows that the book is named for it’s a place of howling winds and harsh treatments. Small wonder that most of the inmates speak of ghosts.Nathaniel is a man with his very own skeleton cupboard. He blames himself for the death of his father and is determined to try and redeem himself by helping those in need. His new ideas don’t sit too well with the asylum’s proprietor. Dr Chettle is more interested in phrenology (study of skulls) and is more inclined to old fashioned methods for his inmates. Chettle comes across initially as a bit preoccupied, maybe a bit crazy himself but as the book progresses his character definitely takes on a more sinister tone. But, I get ahead of myself.Nathaniel immediately takes on his roster of patients and we learn more from his journals. One of his patients is a young woman called Mrs Harleston, a well to do young lady of society who seems to have become hysterical/delusional after experiencing an ‘episode’. Her husband wants her ‘fixing’ and able to perform her wifely duties as soon as possible (he’s a real charmer for sure). The young doctor finds himself becoming increasingly obsessed with his new patient, he of course tells himself that she is a respectable woman, intelligent, fragile and of a standing that should dictate respectful treatment – lets just be honest though, she’s a very attractive woman and he is besotted. His attempts to help Mrs Harleston become ever more desperate as he seeks to prevent Dr Chettle from using more drastic treatments and eventually he resorts to engaging a mesmerist, after which things go horribly wrong.The writing is really strong. I read this and could easily have thought I was reading a much older book – that’s how well the author captures the style and feel of Victorian England. The story itself is a mystery, it has hints of the supernatural, although these could be easily explained as delusions, but, more than that it takes a good look at the treatment of women in a society where they were little more than belongings. Quite shocking really, as was the treatment of those suffering from mental health issues.In terms of the characters. Well, they’re all a bit difficult to like to be brutally honest. Nathaniel, well, I don’t suppose he’s a bad character as such but I wanted to slap him, more often than not. He’s from the school of thought that ‘women don’t know what’s best for them’ and lets just be blunt, he’s not really being very professional now is he – it’s as clear as the nose on your face that he has feelings for Mrs Harleson and added to that is the feeling that, to my mind, he wasn’t really intent on helping her. Deep down I think he wanted to keep her where she was. Mrs Harleson, well, at first I’m going to say I didn’t like her. Even after finishing and thinking about the novel some more I would say she’s manipulative, but then, on reflection, she lives in a society where she has no say, her husband can have her committed to an asylum at the drop of a hat and she’s basically at the whim of men who are determined to call her insane whether she is or not. With that in mind, well, I find her actions a lot more easy to understand. Sorry to be a bit mysterious but I’m trying to avoid spoilers.Settings. Well, we start off with the asylum which is wonderfully conjured and as events progress we move to London where the streets are thick with fog. Victorian London has become enamoured with illusionists and Nathaniel finds himself drawn into the spiritualist circles and ultimately led to a new performer at the Egyptian Hall.In terms of criticisms. Well, I found myself quite engrossed with this book and it definitely worked it’s charm on me but, I felt like the two different settings were a little disjointed. That’s probably not very well explained, All I can say is that the change from one setting to the other felt hastily drawn and not as well thought out as the proceeding or following chapters. I also felt like the ending was a little bit rushed when compared to the pacing for the rest of the story and this just made me feel as though I’d missed something or that maybe something had been cut from the story. I would also mention that if you have a penchant for fast moving action stories then this doesn’t really fall into that bracket.Overall though I really enjoyed this. A story of deception, secrets, lies and the slow descent into madness. As I mentioned it has a tone reminiscent of the classics. Collins, Dickens and from amongst more contemporary authors Hill and Waters. Beautifully written and wonderfully evocative. A real thought provoker that calls to mind the old saying ‘be careful what you wish for’. I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.
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  • Vanessa
    January 1, 1970
    Nathaniel Kerner takes up a position advertised for the Crakethorne Asylum, drawn to it through the way it was portrayed in the paper: a seemingly pleasant ‘mad-house’ with picturesque views and promising treatments for patients suffering from one form or another of mental illness. Except, upon his arrival, Crakethorne Asylum is anything but. The place is brooding, chilling and bleak and instead of the dozens of roses which should have been present, crows seem to make a home out of the asylum’s Nathaniel Kerner takes up a position advertised for the Crakethorne Asylum, drawn to it through the way it was portrayed in the paper: a seemingly pleasant ‘mad-house’ with picturesque views and promising treatments for patients suffering from one form or another of mental illness. Except, upon his arrival, Crakethorne Asylum is anything but. The place is brooding, chilling and bleak and instead of the dozens of roses which should have been present, crows seem to make a home out of the asylum’s grounds. The birds, ominous and dark, simply add to the wonderfully created gothic atmosphere of the novel; a cliché to some perhaps, but I’d say you can never go wrong with making extensive use of the birds which are viewed as a bad omen of sorts. Kerner is a character which inspires hope and a vision towards a better future, especially towards treatments used to cure or at least, alleviate a troubled mind in comparison to his mentor, Dr Chettle. Almost immediately, the man come across as a quack doctor and this is further enhanced by the methods he aims for and though I’d dare to say they’re absolutely medieval and brutal, the character only adds to the Victorian gothic atmosphere. Quite early on in the book, Kerner displays curiosity towards the ever mysterious Victoria Harlestone who is brought in by her husband; frantic and demanding, he wishes his wife to be cured as soon as possible from whatever ‘lunacy’ she suffers from and that Dr Chettle should use any means necessary to restore her. Little of what has happened to her or how she is as a person is given away, further enhancing the mystery, but regardless of how closed of a book she may be, Kerner is set on figuring her out. Littlewood takes elements of horror and gothic literature, expertly blending them together and she successfully delivers. She explores the darkness of the human mind, madness and obsession, bone-chilling moments where wives are at the mercy of their husbands but also society. In retrospect, perhaps it is this particular topic which I found to be the most frightening of all and the exploration of this issue is one I did not get bored of while encountering it several times throughout the book. “The Crow Garden” is a perfect book for the season as the clocks turned back and nights become longer, colder. Fans of gothic novels and Victorian England will easily be hooked on Littlewood’s novel and with that said, she is an author whose writing I will closely follow thanks to this book.
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  • Maya Panika
    January 1, 1970
    Less a paranormal horror (as I imagined from the blurb) and more a Gothic mystery, in high Victorian style, The Crow Garden starts strongly out of the gate with the intrinsic mystery of Mrs Harleston - what really happened to her on that London omnibus? What is her husband’s apparently pernicious role in her incarceration? - and her young doctor Nathaniel Kerner seems half mad himself in his total obsession with his charge. The strangeness of the tale gets only stronger as we pass through phreno Less a paranormal horror (as I imagined from the blurb) and more a Gothic mystery, in high Victorian style, The Crow Garden starts strongly out of the gate with the intrinsic mystery of Mrs Harleston - what really happened to her on that London omnibus? What is her husband’s apparently pernicious role in her incarceration? - and her young doctor Nathaniel Kerner seems half mad himself in his total obsession with his charge. The strangeness of the tale gets only stronger as we pass through phrenology and mesmerism and into the supernatural - but is it? The ambivalence shrouds the plot like the moorland mist or a London fog. The mystery deepens and the plot thickens as circumstances force Dr Kerner to London, where his grieving mother has become a devotee of seances and mediums. It’s a short step from this to the shadowy, lime-lit world of the Victorian theatre and the age of illusion, where a great shock awaits Nathaniel and he is forced to question all of his certainties and all he believes. This is the very best part of the novel.And then Kerner returns to Yorkshire, to the asylum and Dr Chettle, and it all goes off the boil. A great vagueness came over the story here, and what had previously been mysterious was now a bit tired and rather dull. The descent into madness (I will not say who, and spoil) was so distressing and frankly distasteful that I rather lost the plot myself at this point. The Crow Garden is 4 star worthy, for sure, for the gloriously misted, Gothic world building (The author is a native of Penistone and having lived there myself for many years, I could see and feel the landscapes and buildings, the damp greening stone, misted moorland and walls of the Yorkshire of this book, which are all so well described), the clever weaving of secrets and lies, the wonderful characterisation of the sly, manipulative Mrs Harleston who hides herself so well beneath her veneer of quiet madness, confusion and oppression. Dr Kerner, our protagonist and narrator is such a stiff, self-righteous prig, so consumed by his obsession with (and obvious lust for) Mrs Harleston, it’s rather hard to feel much sympathy for him. Neither of the main characters are in the least likeable but both are marvellously well-drawn and compelling. The peripheral characters - Doctor Chettle, Kerner’s mother, Mr Harleston, the staff and inmates of Crakethorne Asylum - are equally well drawn. The plot is superbly curlicued; illuminated with literary allusion and lyrical Gothic touches - almost a little too much at times (the literary and poetic allusions and Victorianesque language did get a touch heavy at times) but the whole, for the most part, certainly the first two thirds, was wonderfully well done and very enjoyable indeed.
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  • Leah
    January 1, 1970
    This was the first book i've read that was mainly set in an asylum . I enjoyed the historical aspects of this story as well as the creepy, ghostly parts in and around the asylum . It's a wonderful mix of mystery, romance, horror and history .Some of the treatments of the patients or inmates as they called them, were quite distressing but sadly those things did happen for real in some of these places .Dr Nathaniel Kerner was an intriguing character as was Mrs Victoria Harleston .It was written in This was the first book i've read that was mainly set in an asylum . I enjoyed the historical aspects of this story as well as the creepy, ghostly parts in and around the asylum . It's a wonderful mix of mystery, romance, horror and history .Some of the treatments of the patients or inmates as they called them, were quite distressing but sadly those things did happen for real in some of these places .Dr Nathaniel Kerner was an intriguing character as was Mrs Victoria Harleston .It was written in a very interesting way with several diary entries from Dr Kerner as well as some letters which add visual interest to the book .I recommend it to any fans of asylum, mystery, historical fiction and romance books.I received a free e book copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review .
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  • SJH (A Dream of Books)
    January 1, 1970
    'The Crow Garden' was a really intriguing and enigmatic read. Described as 'Susan Hill meets Wilkie Collins', I knew from that single line that I had to read this book. I loved the Victorian meets Gothic meets psychological chiller atmosphere of the story and I found it a real page-turner and exactly my kind of story. The setting immediately drew me in. Crakethorn Asylum is creepy and atmospheric and almost makes you want to shiver. It becomes the new place of employment of Doctor Nathaniel Kerr 'The Crow Garden' was a really intriguing and enigmatic read. Described as 'Susan Hill meets Wilkie Collins', I knew from that single line that I had to read this book. I loved the Victorian meets Gothic meets psychological chiller atmosphere of the story and I found it a real page-turner and exactly my kind of story. The setting immediately drew me in. Crakethorn Asylum is creepy and atmospheric and almost makes you want to shiver. It becomes the new place of employment of Doctor Nathaniel Kerr who has walked away from his prestigious consultant position, to work in a 'mad house'. At Crakethorn, he meets Mrs Victoria Harleston, one of his new patients and becomes obsessed with understanding her and finding out her secrets. This leads to a dangerous experiment in mesmerism which causes things to begin to unravel for the Doctor. The book is divided into three parts, switching between Crakethorn, London and then back to the Asylum again. I liked the three distinct sections and the way in which the story was perfectly balanced and kept me glued to the pages throughout. It really did remind me of some of my favourite nineteenth century Gothic novels in terms of the plot and the storytelling. I thought it was very clever how the author drew a veil of intrigue over many of the events in the novel. I was never quite sure whether I could believe everything I read because it's unclear who still possesses control over their minds and who is being controlled. Really puzzling to the reader but in a good way. I haven't read anything by Alison Littlewood before but I was very impressed by 'The Crow Garden' and will be checking out some of her other novels now, as well as future offerings.
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  • nikkia neil
    January 1, 1970
    Mental illness had no sympathy, empathy, or compassion in the Victorian times. This book will shock, titillate, and thrill all at once
  • Marina Coco
    January 1, 1970
    That was good, fun and atmospheric even if the narrator was the world 's biggest asshole.
  • Alyson Rhodes
    January 1, 1970
    I've read Alison Littlewood's books and sought out her short stories for several years; I love her fiction, with only the odd exception and this one was great. If you love Victorian gothic, mad doctors and beautiful women with ESP who may or may not be mad, bleak settings, motifs of birds,heroes with tons of back story and issues, interesting historical quirky facts about obscure bits of Victorian life and lingo, and so on and so on.... well you get the idea. This book ticked pretty much all tho I've read Alison Littlewood's books and sought out her short stories for several years; I love her fiction, with only the odd exception and this one was great. If you love Victorian gothic, mad doctors and beautiful women with ESP who may or may not be mad, bleak settings, motifs of birds,heroes with tons of back story and issues, interesting historical quirky facts about obscure bits of Victorian life and lingo, and so on and so on.... well you get the idea. This book ticked pretty much all those boxes therefore my boxes and could have been written just for me. It goes without saying though that if this isn't your fictional bag then prob it's not worth going there cos there is a lot of detail and story to wade through. It is a story told in 3 separate definite parts, 2nd part set in London, which I found the most obliquely written, least clear and most padded out of the book. Parts 1 and 2 set in Yorkshire in the asylum where the most engaging. It is not always clear what is supernatural and what is real and in this shifting world of shadows, madness and mesmerism Littlewood has carved out her own niche in greyness. So not a story with a definitive ending or solution. No tidy loose ends all tied up here. Just coiling strands of insanity reaching out. I too feel like some other reviewers that perhaps some tighter editing might have streamlined the narrative somewhat. Perhaps there is a 5 star book here waiting to break out. So close to the story jackpot but not quite on the bullseye. Much to love and revel in though and I learnt quite a bit about Victorian lingo and life as a stage mesmeriser plus many other details.
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  • Shona Booky Ramblings of a Neurotic Mom
    January 1, 1970
    I really struggled with this book. I found it difficult to stay focused and interested in the plot or characters, what I did read was well written and the setting was great, just not engaging enough for me.
  • Ruth
    January 1, 1970
    Lovely gothic chills - and an unreliable narrator to boot - what's not to like!
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