The Crow Garden is the first novel I have read from author Alison Littlewood and it was a rare treat! I love the idea of novels about madness but it is rare that I find one so well written, most I have found dance around with innuendo and mystery and I find that quite frustrating. Not so with The Crow Garden with echoes of Shutter Island Alison Littlewood builds tension with a novel where everything is evident to the reader and not to the characters themselves!
Nathaniel Kerner is determined to become an Alienist or ‘mad-doctor’ treating patients in an asylum to atone for his father’s suicide, for which he blames himself. Soon he finds himself in his first position at Crakethorn, an old Manor House and now asylum where he meets the beautiful yet damaged Mrs Harleston. But as tension builds between the characters the lines between madness and sanity become blurred.
Spotted with the poetry of Browning and Byron, the story tells of a terrible love story woven with insanity, in a time when it really was unclear who was mad and who was not. A time when Doctors were allowed free will to carry out barbarous treatments and patients could be admitted purely for being epileptic. The setting on the Yorkshire Moors and the time which is perceived to be Victorian times only add to the dark and cryptic storyline.
Alison Littlewood’s writing reminds me a lot of the writing of Daphne Du Maurier and I feel that is the biggest complement I can afford the author of The Crow Garden a fantastic novel and highly recommended!