Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Asylum, Johan Theorin

BLURB----A chilling Swedish psychological crime novel set between a nursery and a mental asylum, full of sinister intentions, hidden identities and dangerous secrets.

3 stars definitely, even if I forget it's a translation I still had issues with the book as a a whole.
If I were reviewing this at about 80% it would have been a completely different review. BUT the way it ended changed everything.

To be fair I couldn't picture a nice neat ending so I was prepared for something not to be thoroughly explored because of all the little threads and tangents. I just.....I mean, book! Really! Everything I had invested in became undone and redundant. Nothing annoys me more than thinking that it was all for nothing.

But before I go a'spoilin I'll talk more generally.

Plot - The story follows Jan, Jan has a "past" which we don't know much about. We just know he appears a bit shady and is obsessed with a singer called Alice Rami. 
Jan applies for a job in a day care center attached to the asylum- nicknamed St Psycho's. Things are slowly revealed about the patients/staff and Jan's personal history.

Minor spoiler's here.....

I think if we had found out all about Jan earlier I would have like this book so much more, but as it was all I knew was he was a questionable character who was obsessed with a girl and I had no explanation. Literally zero. For me it was a mistake to only give us something to empathize with at around 70%. I couldn't allow myself to connect and root for somebody who for most of the book I believed was going to be a child abuser. I did grow to love Jan by the end so I felt like a lot of time had been wasted not getting to know him. I unnecessarily held the book at arms length.
He was a very interesting character and I understand him so much now. A poor lonely socially inept but mostly nice guy searching for someone to heal him.

I did enjoy it, for me the highlight was from about 65% to maybe 85% every page there was revealing something in three separate parts of Jan's life his past as a teen, his time with Rami and the present at St Psycho's. This was an excellent section as there was a feeling of urgency and I read this part very quickly.Awesomeness!!

A big big point for me was the writing. I KNOW if I could read the original Swedish version the writing would be better. I assume because some words and tenses have no literal translation it is difficult to translate the book completely accurately. It just felt flat, the sentences were too short like: "Jan has arrived. The meter is showing ninety-six kroner. Jan hands a hundred kroner note. 'Keep the change'." So stilted! I just couldn't lost myself in it because the are full stop's everywhere, I won't let this harm my rating though as this is unavoidable I think.


Right so's my issues....plot issues so it's all gonna be one big paragraph containing major spoilers!

Jan spent time in a mental institution himself when he was younger after he was abused by a gang of 4 teens provokes a failed suicide attempt. There he meets Alice Rami. They plan an escape and although Alice succeeds, Jan has sabotaged his own attempt because of his fear of the boys attacking him again.
It turns out the boys were murdered, he believes Alice killed the 4 boys as revenge for hurting Jan. Following this Jan becomes obsessed with her and tracks her down to a different asylum...St Psycho's. This is the reason Jan applies for the job there and after he succeeds he tries to contact her and ask if she would like Jan help her break out.
At the same time this is going on there is a child serial killer in the asylum, one of his victims is the brother of one of the staff. A different member of staff sympathizes with him and wants to break him out. I hope you're following me.
These escapes are planned for the same time. It becomes clear that Jan was never in touch with Rami- she was never there. But only the child-killer, it also is revealed that Rami didn't kill the teens for Jan. So the whole reason Jan became involved in all of this, the only reason Jan "loves" Rami and came to St Psycho's was never true! I'm gonna do the ending in a new spoiler tag because this made me so mad

Ending now.....this was the final nail in the coffin for me....

 The child-killer and employee who wanted to break him out frame Jan for all of the previous murders and then he is killed...HE DIES!!! The killer dies too, but poor JAN DIES TAINTED AS A CHILD KILLER. Pssshhtttt, no no no book! I wanted one good thing to happen to Jan and it never ever did

The reason all of this annoyed me was....
 The whole book is about Jan/his past, unraveling the mystery that is St Psycho's and Jan's infatuation with Rami. For a whole book to be based on this premise only for it to be shattered in in the last chapter and reveal everything that Jan had done was misinterpreted....Jan wasn't a bad guy....Rami was never there...Rami didn't actually seek revenge for Jan...and loads of other stuff. I felt I had wasted my time, it was a brave decision to write this way and I get what the author was trying to achieve. But for me it just ruined it, I spent most of the book wrongly questioning Jan, then I rooted for him only to discover everything was a lie. THEN HE DIES. I had no closure at all.

So after that ending, I was incredibly depressed and felt slightly cheated. Not a bad book but the way it ended had me hollow.

Having said all of this....If you enjoy complex characters, slow burning books, don't mind not having a remotely happy ending, like having a few curve balls thrown at you. This is still a really good read.


  1. Hi Rebecca!
    A couple of hours ago I finished Asylum too. Here in my country it was named "The Keeper of the Children". It was in spanish. Being the original name "Sankta Psyko", I can imagine why they tried to change the name to something more "marketable".

    Anyway. I started looking the book in google because I can't believe there's not a movie out yet. :P Or at least plans to take it to the big screen. So I found your blog and read your review.

    I felt a lot like you. I'm new to books actually. Even though I'm 26... I was more of a "movie guy". But through graphic novels and recommendations I'm now in this wonderful world.

    It took me two weeks to finish the first part. The first chapter. Because I find it hard to sympathize with this guy... even though I was curious.

    When I started the chapter 2... (yesterday)... I just couldn't stop. Had to finish it. And I did.

    A couple things though:

    Jan doesn't die at the end. He survives the fall. Even though all the proofs seems against him... I think he'll make it. Lilian will trust him and Hannah will not endure the blame. After all... he needs to seer Alice Rami once again! :D One of the best characters IMO.

    The other thing...

    He didn't fell in love with her because "she killed the band of 4". He did because she was the only thing that made his life worthwile. Worth living. It says on the book that after the kiss in their concert... he fell in love. And because of that is why he sabotage their escape plan. So they can be together... in there. Safe. Outisde of the world who hurt him so bad that he wanted to die.

    Sorry for my poor english BTW... my native tongue is spanish... so I'm doing my best. I know my english is not the best... but at least is better than google translator I believe. :P

    So there it is. Maybe the translation from Swedish to english is really bad like you said. But to say the truth the translation to spanish didn't seem bad at all. Actually it was quiet enjoyable.

    Thank you for letting me comment here! Any recommendations for any other book similar in style to this? Thriller... suspense... psycological?

    Kind regards!


  2. Hi Martin! Thank you so much for commenting! Your English is much better than google translate hahahaha.

    I'm also relatively new to books too, I started about 6 months ago but before that I was a huuuuuge movie fan. Still am really.

    I agree with all you're saying about Rami, I get that he didn't love her just for believing she killed the 4 boys but for me, the fact that he clung onto it and it meant so much to him made me annoyed. Poor Jan was used by everybody and I wanted somebody to be his friend with no other motive. So it just left a bitter taste in my mouth that..once again...poor Jan was in the dark.

    I really thought he died at the end?!?! Maybe I was not paying attention by that point to the finer details. I was quite annoyed by this deception and probably rushed through it. But again, I still think after all Jan has been through it was too little/vague for me to not be annoyed.

    Perhaps it's just because I wanted something better for Jan. I didn't connect with him at all until we got more information about him, so I wanted a lot of positivity to come his way.

    As for other you have a Goodreads profile? If not Goodreads is an excellent way to find great recommendations! If you click on one the books in the all time favourites selection on the right hand side it will take you to the site.

    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was a great read for me, as was Joe by H.D Gordon. Ummm hmm it'shard recommending books! What else have you read?

    Thanks again for commenting!!

    Rebecca :)

  3. you are the only person I know that felt the same as I do about the book. most of the people thought it was like the best thing that ever graced the earth... or just bad. And I didn't think it went to either of those extremes.

    haha. so you are new to books too? That's awesome!
    I'll take those two into consideration. I'm starting with some graphic novels after this. I'll read FABLES. I don't know if you know it. :)

    1. Well......Feels weird writing to you on here now but I don't want it looking like you were ignored. Hahaha. So this is just a virtual nod and I'll probably talk to you later. :) xxxxxxxxx