Tuesday, 27 February 2018

BLOG TOUR: The Key - Kathryn Hughes

Today I'm taking part in the blog tour for The Key by Kathryn Hughes.  This is an absolutely breathtaking book that I will remember for a very long time.  You can read my review below and you can also click here to read an extract comprising the prologue that made me gasp out loud and chapter one set in 2006.

It's Ellen Crosby's first day as a student nurse at Ambergate County Lunatic Asylum. When she meets a young woman committed by her father, and a pioneering physician keen to try out the various 'cures' for mental illness, little does Ellen know that a choice she will make is to change all their lives for ever...
Sarah is drawn to the abandoned Ambergate Asylum. Whilst exploring the old corridors she discovers a suitcase belonging to a female patient who was admitted fifty years earlier. The shocking contents lead Sarah to unravel a forgotten story of tragedy, lost love and an old wrong that only she may have the power to put right . . .

What did I think?

I was a late entrant to join The Key blog tour and I thought that I would struggle to read the book in the time given, but I couldn't have been more wrong.  No sooner had I picked the book up than I was wiping my eyes after turning the final page.  Kathryn Hughes is such a talented author that she effortlessly weaves so much emotion into the pages that even the coldest heart can't fail to be moved.

The prologue is set in 1956 with an attempted dual suicide and murder that made me gasp out loud, but we are teasingly left dangling for quite a few chapters before we pick up this thread again.  As we meet Sarah in 2006 we discover the abandoned Ambergate Lunatic Asylum and Sarah is determined to tell its story through a book she is writing.  Sarah befriends a homeless young man who is sheltering in the asylum and the pair investigate the empty corridors and empty rooms together.  One day they stumble across the attic filled with suitcases and one suitcase in particular is like opening the wardrobe door to Narnia as we glimpse into the past of 1956.

Student Nurse Ellen Crosby is very empathetic and wants to make a difference; her outspoken views often get her into trouble with the sister and the doctor, but I loved her standing up to them to get her point across.  Ellen is drawn to Amy Sullivan who is admitted on the same day that Ellen started at Ambergate and is the same age as her.  Amy's story is terribly tragic and her misery is compounded as each day of her incarceration in Ambergate passes.  In 2006, Sarah traces Amy via Ellen and the whole heartbreaking story is revealed.

I had to brush a few tears away whilst reading The Key; the pain and suffering must have been immense for the men and women forced into institutions, many of them as sane as  you or I.  It's quite shocking to think that places such as Ambergate Asylum actually existed.  Thank goodness for Enoch Powell, then Minister of Health, who promised to close many of these asylums in his 'water tower' speech delivered in 1961.  

The Key is a completely heart-wrenching and poignant story that left me completely powerless to prevent my eyes blurring with tears as the story unfolded.  It reminded me of the TV show Long Lost Families as my happiness for the characters at the end of the book was coupled with a lone tear trickling down my face.  It's a beautifully written novel, inspired by the real-life discovery of a room filled with suitcases in a derelict asylum in Willard, New York.  In addition to reading The Key, it's well worth visiting the Willard Suitcases website to read more about this amazing story.  I definitely won't forget The Key anytime soon.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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