Read The Whores' Asylum by Katy Darby Online


This is a dark portrait of the fragility and fervour of male friendship that's full of gothic drama, romance and intrigue....

Title : The Whores' Asylum
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781905490806
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 340 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Whores' Asylum Reviews

  • Maya Panika
    2019-04-22 05:32

    It looks so pretty but the contents… are not egregiously bad, but they're not very good, either. The Whore’s Asylum tries awfully hard but the plot is thin and the necessary padding not up to the mark. The first half is the best. Fraser and Chapman are decently-drawn characters, and though the laboured style does its best to kill the thing, it rolls along at a steady pace. The epistolary, exposition-packed second half seemed dreadfully long and so slow and tedious, it took every ounce of energy in me to keep turning the pages. The relationship between Fraser and Chapman - that is the very heart of the tale - failed to convince me. Their growth of their friendship is dealt with so quickly – as if the author was bored by this very necessary scene-setting, only wanting to get on to the fraught tale of Diana – it just didn’t develop at all for me, and it is so central to the plot! I feel it would have made for a much better tale if more of the time that was spent on those dreadful dreary letters at the end was given to developing the details of their friendship, and because I wasn't persuaded that Fraser and Chapman had grown so close, it made Fraser’s violent reaction to his friend’s engagement seem ludicrous, and Chapman’s response completely over the top.At least Fraser and Chapman were solid, workmanlike characters, Diana was not, she was, throughout, a device. Lord ‘Lucky’ was just ridiculous; an evilly-chortling, moustache-twirling Dick Dastardly (and not in a good way!). His melodramatic dénouement was especially absurd, certainly worthy of the purplest of Victorian prose. Maybe that was the point? But if it was intended as a clever parody, it didn’t work; it made me giggle uncontrollably, which I’m pretty sure was not the intention.And what was the point of the illustrations? They weren’t needed and not well done, very out of keeping with the writing style - which squeezed itself through terrible hoops to stay ‘in character’. They reminded me of picture-plates from the comics and books I read when I was nine years old; they seemed very out-of-place and silly. In short, I read a book like this to be entertained, and I wasn’t. The plot was unconvincing and the prose so desperately dull, it was an epic struggle to finish.

  • Kellie
    2019-04-17 09:18

    I picked this up as the cover and title caught my attention. Reading the back I gathered it would be a gritty, sink your teeth into tale of the back streets of late 1800s Oxford.I found it a very slow paced story and where it should of taken me about three days to get through, it took me three long weeks where it just didn't excite me. Story was focussed on two upper class university students and a mystery woman who had featured in one of the characters lives some years earlier.The whores' asylum seems like it is an after thought and only really comes in about 2/3rds through. Just two of the girls are brought into the story and only one really has much to do with the tale.I may of enjoyed it more if I didn't have any expectations, or not had seen the cover or the title.Will not be recommending it to any friends.

  • Julia Simpson-Urrutia
    2019-04-25 08:47

    I love Victorian period dramas. As I was just sliding off a high induced by the Encore miniseries The Crimson Petal and the White, based on the 2002 novel by Michel Faber (which I am dying to read), I chanced upon The Whores' Asylum by Katy Darby. Published in 2012 by Penguin, this is the debut novel of a young woman who teaches writing in England as I do in California, but that is not why I fell in love with her book.The Whores' Asylum is aptly titled, with a pretty cover, and in fact has a couple of engaging, colorful whores in it, yet it does not fit genre expectations. It is an intelligent study of the human heart rather than the narrative of a clever whore who raises herself up and escapes from misery in Victorian England. (By no means am I trivializing the referred-to miniseries; I only mean The Whores' Asylum is a labyrinthine sanctuary where the reader must get lost to find meaning. It's a delightful book to get lost in.)Darby gives the amiable narrator's voice to one Dr. Edward Fraser whose affinities and friendships set the entire tone of the novel. At the outset, young Fraser has not determined whether to follow his proclivities for righteousness or his fascination for the classical past. It is significant that he has already achieved a Bachelor of Arts in Theology from Cambridge with first class honors and is now pursuing a Master's in Philosophy at Oxford. Fraser is no simpleton. This character, far more layered than Holmes' Watson and definitely more significant to the plot, tells of his great friendship for Stephen Chapman, a young man studying medicine. Chapman and Fraser are good for each other; they room together in Oxford, sharing their lives, dreams and aspirations with each other. Since the novel is told in hindsight, Fraser wants to explain why Chapman died in such hideous manner, and make amends for his failings, if he can, by so doing.One of Darby's delightful ploys is to play a trick on readers who may, for instance, be likely to judge Fraser as a prude. We are, after all, of the 21st century and do not see things as British society did back in Victorian times. There are other judgments the reader may make which I do not feel inclined to give away. At the very least, the reader will be likely to find young Fraser too judgmental in his view of the young woman with whom Chapman has fallen in love. Still, there is no doubt that Fraser's friendship is sincere and he tries to do right by Chapman. The reader is free to disagree with Fraser's point of view on any number of topics or plot twists, and that disagreement is, I believe, something Darby engineers with skill.The characters in The Whores' Asylum develop as they are supposed to in serious, prize-winning literature. More than anyone else, the layers of Diana/Anna and Fraser are peeled back over and over, until the person finally seated on the couch beside the reader--they are that alive--is not the one the reader had an opinion about at the beginning or even halfway through the novel. I blushed next to Edward Fraser, hoping he would forgive me for my judgments. Through the metamorphoses, the plot keeps us hooked and the changes are all believable.I can see why Darby titled this novel The Unpierced' Heart in its first incarnation, for the overall story is about judgments and choices made around, for and about love. The Whores' Asylum is set against a background of rich Gothic trappings and told in a strong, literary Victorian voice. I cannot wait to see what Darby writes next.

  • Sharon Martin
    2019-03-29 04:38

    Set in the late 1800's , the storyline is set around three main characters who have different backgrounds, breeding and beliefs. The book had me enthralled within the first few pages due to the air of mystery that was created.The characters are vividly described and the attention to detail of the settings, language used and etiquette is superb. The story is based on two scholars, one for the priesthood and one training to become a doctor in pathology. During his training to become a doctor he is given the chance to study on live cases who are working girls and are suffering from venereal diseases. This appeals to him very strongly but when he tries to explain this to his friend, who is studying for the priesthood, conflict of interests arise. The priest-to-be is appalled and horrified that the doctor could cure the girls so they could go back to plying their immoral trade.On his research at the Asylum the doctor falls in love with the woman who runs the shelter. When his trainer cannot attend a ball he gives the doctor the two tickets and he takes his priest friend. On arriving at the ball he sees his lover in the arms of another man and the priest recognises her from his past life.The author then relates each of the characters stories, the trainee priest, the trainee doctor and the madam. As each of the story unfolds, you find yourself drawn further into the book, sensing how each character is feeling and understanding the motives for their beliefs, some of which are still poignant today as we judge people we do not know without really getting to know them. The difference between the classes are a major issue in this book, how the rich live and dominate, the students living in squalor and struggling to survive and finally the working class who have to make ends meet in anyway.When you read this book you will find yourself challenging your thoughts and beliefs. As each story gets further down the line, the mysterious air and lives of each of the characters still remains and it is not until right at the end of the story you get the full picture.The period of the storyline is one of my favourites in history and is excellently represented and anyone who enjoys historic novels must read this book.

  • Kitty
    2019-04-04 06:30

    This is a good enough read. However, there is not enough plot to really enthrall the reader. There was no moment where I gasped and thought "wow, I never thought that would happen" as is usually the case in this brand of pseudo Victorian novels and, indeed, Victorian novels themselves. The book is relatively well written, it wasn't God awful but it just didn't live up to my expectations. I thought I would be getting an intriguing, rip-roaring read, in the style of the sensation novels, something a little like The Meaning Of Night by Micheal Cox (which is a fantastic read that will have you fully engrossed in the wonderful narrative) or inspired by such work as Wilkie Collins. Instead I got a run of the mill historical drama that thinks it is more shocking than it really is (there is a surprising lack of whoreish behavior, considering the title, a title that put me more in mind of the crimson petal and the white, a complete contrast to this comparatively chaste adventure). At the end of the day, there is nothing significantly wrong with this book, it is simply mildly entertaining. The sort of book that will divert you for a short while but will leave no lasting impact. If you are wanting a quick read that doesn't involve much effort (due in the main to the lack of plot complexity)this novel should suffice.

  • Chelsea
    2019-04-12 04:20

    "Remember, my dear, for a whore there is no asylum"This was nothing like I had first imagined. Whether that is good or bad I'm not so sure but I really enjoyed this book. At the center of the book we have Edwards Fraser, a theology student and his roommate Stephen Chapman who is a brilliant doctor. They are unlikely friends but quickly become close. When Chapman begins his work at a shelter designed to help whores get back on their feet Fraser strongly objects and this signals the inevitable crumble of their relationship. It is not long before Chapman becomes enamored with Mrs Diana Pelham who runs the shelter. One night at a ball Fraser and Diana come face to face and instantly recognised one another because Fraser knew her long ago. Is Diana truly wicked? Does everything she touch turn to ash? Fraser fears so. The cover of this book is gorgeous! LOVED IT. I also loved the Victorian layout of the story. It had beautiful illustrations that just helped to bring the story to life. I just raced through this book. The story was fast-paced and full of pure Gothic goodness. I highly recommend this to any one who enjoys a good Victorian tragedy.

  • Lenora
    2019-04-08 04:21

    This novel appears to have quite a fluctuation of reviews, ranging from boring to uneventful, and this is understandable. Gothic fiction is not for everyone.When it comes to such a fine literary art, I believe Darby stays true to the Gothic genre with this lighthearted and enthralling tale of love, passion, and the darkness of Victorian England. From the eloquent narratives and believable characters to the omniscience of the era, this is the totality of Victorian life in the late 1800's. I was perpetually entertained throughout, leading up to the titillating conclusion. Suburb work!

  • Deanne
    2019-04-17 03:24

    One of those books which sound really good but could have been better. Do enjoy these sorts of novels but I was expecting more action than there was. However there were good characters in Diana and Stephen though in the end it did seem that everyone's future was a bit grim, felt that Darby wasn't going to give anyone a break.

  • Martina
    2019-04-17 07:43

    I wouldn't have loved the book as much as I did if not for the author's writing style. The story was not-so-catch to me and the first part of it was pretty boring, just to become too fast starting with the middle part of the book.However, I enjoyed the author's effort to write a novel in the Victorian writing style and think that she was successful in doing so.

  • Steven Murray
    2019-03-25 10:47

    A slow burner that is beautifully written. Picks up speed and has a rather poniont if sad ending. A story of the realities of love.

  • Liam Hogan
    2019-03-31 09:35

    I thought I knew what to expect when I read Katy Darby's "The Whores' Asylum": a Victorian Gothic novel, well executed. Not normally my sort of thing.And so it at first appears, in the epistolary structure, the vocabulary and sentence form, in the mindset of a prudish theology student. A novel from another century. But there are early clues that Darby's debut novel covers at least a subject matter that would have been considered too racy for those times; the title (which is preferred to the toned down supermarket alternative of "An Unpierced Heart"), then there's the dedication Katy wrote to me which helpfully tells which page the orgy is on... (!)Still, Edward Fraser seems a cold, unpromising narrator, hard to like as he slowly settles into the friendship that drives the action, before flashing back to a previous scandal from which he appears to have learnt little. From then things get much more interesting, as we dip into a ruined libertine's crumbling, sordid existence, into the tormented mind of Edward's doctor friend, Stephen Chapman, and finally into the femme fatale of the piece, Diana/Anna. With each switch the promised underbelly of Victorian Oxford is exposed, the stakes raised.If I have an criticism, it is the proximity of the two searches through Jericho, so close in the novel's pages that you would half expect them to come together, and in the what appears an odd choice of Edward to hang it together. But then, as in The Peculiar Case of Jekyll and Hyde, perhaps there are no other characters capable of piecing the whole story together.The novel is solidly copy-edited (no obvious typos to throw you out of the narrative) and in cover and in internal illustrations (in the style of a racy broadsheet of the day), a delight to hold. And even I felt a tug of the ol' heartstrings as I read the ephemera.

  • Mahinn
    2019-04-09 05:47

    It is sheer pleasure to read every word that comes out of Katy Darby's pen. The command of language keeping true to the style of the regency period is utterly delightful. I so enjoy those peculiar turns of phrase as well as the flamboyant vocabulary; a re-introduction to words that we don't see so much of anymore. Expressions that were particular to a certain echelon of society, certain districts, the various Londoners that dot the city - it all comes together to create what is an authentic experience of the time and the place the story is set in. I care for details. And what I can say is that the books does get a little lethargic towards the penultimate chapters, it certainly doesn't leave you wanting for adventure, gothic macabre, and the bloodied mouth of a darkly alive Victorian London. Worthy of 4.5 stars.

  • Laura Lague
    2019-04-17 11:46

    An atmospheric and gripping story that really captured the feel of Victorian Oxford and London (well, what I imagine they felt like!) I love period drama and this was an exciting example of the genre, with sadistic aristocrats, prissy intellectuals, rakes, prostitutes, doomed artists, drunken students, twisted relationships, dancing bears, and even a masked orgy(!) One for fans of Sherlock Holmes, Collins and Faber's Crimson Petal, though it doesn't play the same postmodern tricks.

  • Laura Lague
    2019-04-02 08:23

    An atmospheric and gripping story that really captured the feel of Victorian Oxford and London (well, what I imagine they felt like!) I love period drama and this was an exciting example of the genre, with sadistic aristocrats, prissy intellectuals, rakes, prostitutes, doomed artists, drunken students, twisted relationships, dancing bears, and even a masked orgy(!) One for fans of Sherlock Holmes, Collins and Faber's Crimson Petal, though it doesn't play the same postmodern tricks.

  • Oria
    2019-04-05 05:26

    The name of the book and its author are new to me, but the blurb at the back and the first few pages that I read made me fall for it on the spot. I spent two days reading it, in a kind of half-awake state that only a good book can give, the kind where you wish time could stop until you got to the end.Described as a “Gothic romance”, it begins with the story of Edward Fraser who, fearing his death is near, is writing to his son, Stephen. He has a tragic tale to write, that of Stephen’s mother and of his dear friend Stephen Chapman, after whom his son is named. Told mostly from his perspective, it is a tale fraught with tragedy and poisoned by evilness. In true Victorian style, it has an array of characters ranging from fallen women and brutal, vicious men, to artists, doctors and university students; ambitions are shattered, lives destroyed by sickness and revenge, and above all, a great love story.Edward and Stephen were students at Oxford in 1887 when they met and formed a lasting friendship that was unbroken even in death. They made an interesting pair, a Sherlock meets Watson type of camaraderie founded on common interests such as debating various topics – Edward was studying to be a clergyman or possibly a professor, while Stephen was an exceptional medical student dedicated to the field of obstetrics. When Stephen was offered the opportunity to work at a shelter for reforming fallen women, he was able to bring his passion for his work to the aid of those unfortunate and shunned by society. That is how he met Diana, a young woman whose beauty had shattered lives and left behind nothing but sorrow. Edward knew about Diana’s disreputable past and warned his friend, but Stephen was too in love to care. But all was not well when the lies Diana had told in the past came back to haunt her present, and the truth became difficult to see behind their tangled web. Was Diana the unscrupulous woman Edward thought her to be, a femme-fatale bent on ensnaring the young and unsuspecting for a respectable place in society, or was there something more to the story?The book is divided into five parts, with each part dedicated to a character, four men and a woman, their stories connected. Edward is the main narrator, but Stephen and Diana get to tell their own version as well in the form of letters, which gives the whole story an intimate feeling. The language is true to the period, the turns and flourishes making for a perfect immersion in the Victorian era. I liked this book very much. There are no ghosts here but there’s a dungeon, a half-mad villain, death, and star-crossed lovers. The pace is quick, the mysteries abound, and the end, tragic. I liked the characters, the two friends most of all, and admired Stephen for his strength and for never giving up on his friend. He made his own mistakes along the way but tried to atone for them as best he could. I also liked the references to mythology in the explanation of how the young woman came to be named Diana (not her real name). If you’re a fan of novels set in Victorian times, this is a great choice.Some of my favorite passages:“Chapman confessed to me once that he believed in neither salvation nor damnation, unless it was upon this earth, in our hearts; in this life. Once, I thought this meant he could not be saved. I am no longer that blind an unyielding man – but even when I was, I should gladly have swapped places with him. I imagined that my spotless soul would descend and his rise, and perhaps, when we passed, there would be a moment of recognition; no more. And now I wonder whether he was not right, after all; for I can imagine no damnation more absolute and no Hell bleaker than a world without love in it.”“It is through you that my life has gained purpose and sweetness. These are words fathers do not say to their sons, nor husbands to their wives, yet they should be said, and often; for love is the pearl beyond price, the divine gift, which raises us above our weak and imperfect selves and burns with a hard, astonishing flame against death’s darkness. The grave is cold and silent enough, and soon enough in coming. We ought not to be cold and silent too.”

  • Hanna
    2019-04-19 10:18

    First published on Booking in Heels.Plot summary - Oxford, 1887: Even as Victoria celebrates the fiftieth year of her reign, a stone's throw from the calm cloisters and college spires lies Jericho, a maze of seedy streets and ill-lit taverns, haunted by drunkards, thieves and the lowest sort of brazen female as ever lifted her petticoats.When Stephen Chapman, a brilliant young medical student, is persuaded to volunteer at a shelter devoted to reforming the fallen women of Oxford, his closest friend Edward feels a strange sense of dread. But even Edward - who already knows the devastating effect of falling in love with the wrong woman - cannot foresee the macabre and violent events that will unfold around them, or stop Diana, the woman who seems destined to drive them apart. That's a wonderful plot summary; it's just a shame it doesn't really relate to the damn book at all. Hell, I still want to read the book that blurb refers to. The actual story is much more mundane, generic and, frankly, boring than the above makes it sound. There's not much mystery, violence, dark twists or anything else that it implies - instead it's just a rather dreary story that I struggled to pick up again after every time I put it down.It's written in four parts incorporating supposedly different viewpoints and timelines to document the current sad state of Mr Goodman, who we meet at the beginning. It's an interesting concept and I understand what the author was trying to do, but I can't help but feel that not much was revealed by each viewpoint - we don't really learn anything new about the characters and each perspective sounded pretty much the same to me. The various chapters just didn't seem to 'click' together. Like, various questions are raised in one chapter, and the next tries valiantly to answer them... but somehow doesn't quite manage.On that character point, I just couldn't be induced to care about any of them. Fraser was too uppity and condemning while Goodman is too weak and naive. Once again, I do understand the principle behind these characters and why they are how they are, but it was taken too far in that direction and ended up just irritating me beyond belief. I liked Sukey's character although her personality development wasn't really subtle or refined enough for my liking.And Diana. Oh Diana. I get the feeling the reader is meant to like her by the end, but I absolutely couldn't. She came across as alternately malicious and weak and although Goodman and Fraser might suddenly, startlingly accept her flaws for no good reason, there was actually no good reason for them to do so.That's the other point about this book - a lot of it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. Fraser's guilt towards the end is completely unfounded and we're never really told why he suddenly becomes so receptive to Diana. It actually made me want to hurl the book across the desk in frustration, because what was revealed should in no way have been responsible for his complete opinion overhaul. Also, I know this is a work of fiction, but Goodman's eventual downfall was incredibly unrealistic, both in a literal sense and a medical one. It's technically possible, yes, but the balance of probabilities makes it so unlikely it's ridiculous. The thing is, Katy Darby could actually be a very talented writer - the quality of the prose in The Whore's Asylum is astounding and the descriptions of Victorian London are beautifully vivid. I would challenge any experienced author to do better. It's the just the incredibly slow plot and character development that let her down - with a little more planning out and consideration, her next work could be astounding.

  • Andrew Wallace
    2019-03-31 05:32

    Richly SatisfyingThis compelling novel was originally called ‘The Whores Asylum’ but was apparently renamed to appease a certain chain of stationery stores who thought the title a bit much, despite being happy to stock popular S&M erotica and those amateur photography mags with half-naked women on the front. I’m not knocking either publication but that decision smacks appropriately of the kind of hypocrisy unraveled in the novel now called ‘The Unpierced Heart’. On reflection, however, I think the new title is actually a better fit. Hearts are pierced throughout the narrative, both literally and figuratively and the conclusion is likely to have the same effect on the reader.The book is formed of five interlinked novellas, each written from the point of view of a different character, perhaps to emulate a series of penny dreadfuls, although that description does this beautifully written, elegant book a disservice. The variety ensures we don’t stay too long with the first narrator, Edward Fraser, who can be a bit of a prig although fortunately his dry recollection is leavened by outbursts worthy of Victorian Dad in Viz. Edward’s best friend, Stephen Chapman, has fallen under the spell of the enigmatic Diana Pelham. Mrs Pelham has a questionable past and unfortunately for her Edward knows what it is…The author cleverly uses contrasting points of view, all but the last one male and imbued with the unthinking chauvinism of the time. Even the saintly Chapman falls foul of it, to his endless regret. Indeed, regret is one of the main outcomes as characters attempt to negotiate the often claustrophobic vagaries of their environment. The book is essentially a tragedy that uses these different points of view to unfold a satisfyingly complex story while setting up a series of character arcs that invert expectations, both ours and those of the characters. This structure allows Katy Darby to create an ending that is both unpredictable and incredibly moving.The language too is a delight, from the poetic imagery to the rhythms of Victorian diction. So beguiling is it that even in penning this review I perforce found myself expunging many a baroque interlocution. Or not as the case may be.Themes of poverty and disease, neither of which are the exclusive preserve of the ‘lower classes’, underpin the ambitions of the characters, giving the story a harshly naturalistic feel. These themes also act as metaphors for the kind of ignorance and intolerance that are still very much with us. The novel looks at how love literally becomes poisoned and it is these sequences that take us close to gothic horror, particularly in the chapter narrated by Diana. Here, poverty and disease meet in the person of the psychopathic Lord Kester, whose nickname, ‘Lucky’, is the most striking of the book’s many ironies.A richly satisfying read.

  • Jane
    2019-04-03 07:22

    The cover caught my eye first. It was so very vivid, and so very Victorian.Inside I found a letter. A letter written in 1914. A letter from a dying father to his son.“Six months ago I would not have had you know anything that might distress you; but you are a man now, and have seen blood and killing, and death at Marne, and at Ypres, more than I ever did or hope to; and you deserve to know the truth about myself, your mother, and your namesake, Stephen Chapman, the best and bravest friend I ever had.”The truth was set out in five documents, and some ephemera.In 1887 Edward Fraser, Cambridge graduate who has chosen to continue his theological studies at Oxford, shared rooms with Stephen Chapman, a medical student. The two men were very different, but they became close friends.Edward was concerned when Stephen began to starts to work a shelter for fallen women. And his concern grew when he found that Stephen was falling for Diana, the lady who ran the shelter.Edward had known Diana in Cambridge and her behaviour, and the dramatic events that ensued, gave him good reason to be wary of her.And so the question was posed – who was Diana?Was she an evil schemer?Was she a fallen woman who had risen?Or was she a good woman who had been terribly wronged?The answer comes in the last of the fifth document. Diana, fearing that she will die in childbirth, sets down her extraordinary story for her unborn child …Katy Darby writes wonderfully readable prose. She brings Victorian England to life, and paints vivid pictures of dark streets and of the dark side of high society.I saw thrilling set-pieces, high drama, great revelations…I saw a rich cast of intriguing – and ambiguous – characters.I was captivated as the different elements of the story unfolded, but I do that it had been told differently.The use of letters and documents works for some stories, but it also consigns them to the past. This is a story that would have gained so much if only it had been allowed to live and breathe.I wanted to meet Diana, not just to be told about her, not just to read her words.The Whores’ Asylum is a fine entertainment, but I’m just a little disappointed because I saw the potential for more.Maybe I’ll find it in whatever Katy Darby writes next …

  • Sarah Goodwin
    2019-04-22 07:47

    This book is, quite honestly, trying too hard. It starts off fairly strongly, with us being introduced to Edward as he recounts his story of Stephen, which becomes a much earlier story involving another of his friends and the same women who seemingly led to Stephen's death. We get Edward's perspective, some of Stephen's, Diana's (the woman) as well as letters and diary entries and a complete retelling of the plot from Diana's perspective. - stories within stories in an attempt to mimic the anecdotal style of older novels - complete with letters thrown in, a mustache twirling villain and shrieking women who only seem to be around to faint, get captured or die. Even Diana, painted as a devious temptress at the start, is a sainted mother by the end, dies in childbirth and recounts her story as a series of unfortunate occurrences that would put Tess D'urberville to shame.Halfway through, Edward, suddenly becomes her best buddy, and even marries her, we never find out why he does this. Because he loves Stephen and wants to take care of her for him? But at no point does he mention forgiving her for her previous misdeeds and lies (her own account of which I found unbelievable as she attempts to come across as doe eyed and innocent, which just rings false). I struggled to the end, but it's a heap of cliche with very little of actual entertainment value - the only part that actually seemed original was Kester's story about the dancing bear, which was so grotesque and vivid that it almost redeemed the whole book for me, as it was the kind of dark, gothic tale I was expecting. The rest just reads like a Catherine Cookson someone penned while watching The Crimson Petal and the White. Only not as good as that suggests.

  • Henry
    2019-04-07 06:32

    I liked this book very much. It is beautifully written and the author creates vivid images and her connection and description of intimate human senses is akin to George Elliot and this insight kept me captivated through this mournful story.Having said this. The book does have it's problems. The two main ones are, firstly; that there are few moments where highs of happiness are reached. In fact the torrid tale starts full of woe and continues its downward spiral into depths where I almost wished the characters would end their torment. The reason they never do is regularly mentioned though, that their deep love for one another keeps them fighting mortality, however sorrowful an existence they lead. Due to this and the aforementioned knowledge that none of the characters end up in a happy ending I found it very hard to get close to any of them, however much I wanted to and felt I should. The other main problem is that due to the format of the book being the compiling of different essays/letters taken from each of the characters, it is a little difficult towards the end of the book where periods already mentioned in the book are glazed over by the current contributor if favour of the detail of the part yet to be told, almost as if they sensed it had already been covered by another earlier. There was the odd moment that I felt didn't quite add up, but it would be what one might call knit-picking and didn't detract from an enjoyable read.

  • David Hebblethwaite
    2019-03-26 06:43

    Katy Darby’s first novel is a proper page-turner. I don’t care how overused that description may be; it applies to this book. The Unpierced Heart (aka The Whores’ Asylum) is presented as a series of manuscripts from the late 19th century, beginning with one Edward Fraser’s memoir of his years studying theology at Oxford, where he befriended a medical student named Stephen Chapman. With expertise in obstetrics and gynaecology, Chapman began to volunteer at a refuge for fallen women, managed by an acquaintance of his named Diana Pelham. On later meeting her, Fraser realised that he had encountered ‘Diana Pelham’ years before, under a different name – and tragedy resulted for another friend of his.The subsequent parts of Darby’s novel delve back into that past, and give Chapman and Diana their own turns as narrator. This enables a wonderfully gradual unfurling of the truth, as we come to see all three protagonists in a different light. Darby’s prose evokes period style without coming across as pastiche; this and a gleeful streak of melodrama help keep the pages turning. But Darby also finds time to reflect on love, and explore attitudes towards prostitutes (and women more generally) in Victorian society.To put it more succinctly: read this book.

  • David Hebblethwaite
    2019-03-26 04:27

    Katy Darby’s first novel is a proper page-turner. I don’t care how overused that description may be; it applies to this book. The Whores’ Asylum (aka The Unpierced Heart) is presented as a series of manuscripts from the late 19th century, beginning with one Edward Fraser’s memoir of his years studying theology at Oxford, where he befriended a medical student named Stephen Chapman. With expertise in obstetrics and gynaecology, Chapman began to volunteer at a refuge for fallen women, managed by an acquaintance of his named Diana Pelham. On later meeting her, Fraser realised that he had encountered ‘Diana Pelham’ years before, under a different name – and tragedy resulted for another friend of his.The subsequent parts of Darby’s novel delve back into that past, and give Chapman and Diana their own turns as narrator. This enables a wonderfully gradual unfurling of the truth, as we come to see all three protagonists in a different light. Darby’s prose evokes period style without coming across as pastiche; this and a gleeful streak of melodrama help keep the pages turning. But Darby also finds time to reflect on love, and explore attitudes towards prostitutes (and women more generally) in Victorian society.To put it more succinctly: read this book.

  • Anne
    2019-04-13 06:46

    Uncritical maybe, but there really was nothing I didn’t like about this one – read it in a couple of sittings and was totally absorbed by Kate Darby’s brilliant portrayal of the seamier side of Victorian life. I thought the structure worked really well – I liked the separate stories revealing part of the narrative through writings left behind. I thought Edward Fraser was a wonderful character, and a distinctive voice, with his absolute sense of moral rectitude justifying every action. There’s enough mystery and melodrama to keep you turning the pages, boo-hiss villains, hopeless love and tarts with a heart to satisfy anyone – and you can smell the streets and feel the damp, the writing’s of a very high quality. Fans of Sarah Waters will love this one, an accomplished debut.

  • Marie Evans
    2019-04-12 04:21

    Free copy through Waterstones Cardholder schemeWhen I read the summary of this book I was looking forward to reading it based on the fact it had compared to a “Sherlock Holmes” novel. However I’m not quite sure what to make of this book and struggled to finish it.This book is set in London in the late nineteenth century and is a mix between love and friendship.This book is narrated by Edward Fraser who tells the story in five stories that link together. Each story focuses on a different character.I struggled with a lot of the language throughout this book. The story is quite interesting when it moves between characters however sometimes this became rather confusing. I’m not sure whether I would recommend this book to others.

  • For Books' Sake
    2019-04-24 10:46

    "This time-travelling tome takes the reader back to the underbelly of fin-de-siècle Oxford. The focus is on Stephen Chapman, a brilliant young medical student. Whilst volunteering at a shelter for ‘fallen women’, he himself falls for Diana, one of the residents. Stephen becomes convinced that she is a wronged woman – an innocent victim of maltreatment. We hear his story from fellow student, Edward Fraser, who is reading Theology – and who is rather less sure of Diana’s innocence. He recalls one ‘Diana Pelham’, and her tragic, devastating entanglement with another of their friends…" (Excerpt from full review at For Books' Sake.)

  • Cherry Potts
    2019-04-10 08:19

    It starts so well, the relationship between Stephen and his great friend is brilliantly drawn and the unreliable narration is huge fun, I felt I was being taken on a journey I would thoroughly enjoy, there were overtone of holmes & watson, and many other victorian repressed homoerotic pairings, which usually end up as someone (can't remember who) has said, dying in each others arms. But then we get the demented segment in the middle with dungeons and practically moustache twirling and while I'm sure Ms Darby had a riot of fun writing it i felt all subtlety had waked away. A shame. I look forward to something new and a little more consistent!

  • Clare Kane
    2019-04-19 10:45

    I really enjoyed reading this book! I stumbled across it in my local library and title drew me in straight away! interesting plot and narratives. Well formed characters. The friendship in the book is especially poignant and heartfelt. Even though the ending is not happy per say, it is a satisfactory ending nonetheless. Only reason that I gave it four stars is the fact that I find the love between Chapman and Diana to be quite doubtful...We aren't told when or how they fall in love or why they love eachother so much. I think the author could have explored their relationship more from both of their perspectives.

  • Renee
    2019-04-05 03:22

    Maybe this went totally over my head, but I kept waiting for the big mystery or the big plot reveal that just never happened. I was left thinking, "Is that it? That's the big secret?" But maybe this was written in a particular genre and it was meant to be that way, and I just didn't get it. The author writes in a very authentic upper-class Victorian voice which is great for drawing you in to the story but also made it slow going at times. Would have given it more stars if the actual plot was more exciting.

  • Helen
    2019-04-14 07:32

    A fantastic example of everything that's best about Victorian melodrama. I loved the narratives and the total lack of an omniscient narrator - the way that each account raises doubts on the previous one that you'd believed before is unsettling and very well constructed. One of my favourite books ever!

  • Karen
    2019-04-11 08:33

    What an interfering sanctimonious prig the main character was as a young man. If only he'd left things alone a lot of trouble would have been averted. It was an okay read but perhaps all a little overwrought. Is it possible to have a novel set in Victorian times that doesn't involve prostitutes?