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The Key: This Summer's Heartbreaking Must-Read

Kathryn Hughes

8 Reviews

Rated 0

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)

The discovery of an old suitcase in an abandoned lunatic asylum unlocks a forgotten story of tragedy, lost love and a devastating wrong waiting to be put right, from the #1 bestselling author of The Letter and The Secret

From the #1 bestselling author of THE LETTER Kathryn Hughes comes THE KEY, an unforgettable story of a heartbreaking secret that will stay with you for ever.

'Riveting' Lesley Pearse on The Letter. 'Gripping' Good Housekeeping on The Secret.

1956
It's Ellen Crosby's first day at work as a student nurse at Ambergate County Lunatic Asylum. When she meets a young girl committed by her father, and a pioneering physician keen to try out the various 'cures' available for mental illness, little does Ellen know that a choice she will make is to change all their lives for ever...

2006
Sarah is drawn to the abandoned Ambergate Asylum and whilst exploring the old corridors she discovers a suitcase in an attic belonging to a female patient who was admitted to the asylum fifty years earlier. The shocking contents of the suitcase lead Sarah to unravel a forgotten story of tragedy, lost love and an old wrong that only Sarah may have the power to put right.

Join the hundreds of thousands of readers worldwide who have lost their hearts to Kathryn Hughes' novels:

'I cried buckets of tears reading it'

'You cannot fail to fall for this story'

'I went through every emotion under the sun'

'One of the finest stories I have ever read'

'I have finished this book with tears in my eyes but a smile on my face'

'I feel like I'm a better person for reading it'

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Praise for The Key: This Summer's Heartbreaking Must-Read

  • Praise for Kathryn Hughes - - -

  • The Letter was a bestseller. The author's second, The Secret, is just as gripping - Good Housekeeping

  • Autumnal Sunday afternoons were invented solely to read heart-tugging novels like this - Red

  • An emotional and intriguing read... Keeps you guessing right to the end ***** - People's Friend

  • A moving story of love, loss and hope - Bella

  • This moving love story had everyone talking... Get set to be hooked - Look

  • Have lots of tissues ready - My Weekly

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Reader reviews (1)

  • 4.5?s The Key is the third novel by British author, Kathryn Hughes. In 2006, while living with her recently widowed father, thirty-eight-year-old librarian Sarah Charlton makes daily visits to the now derelict Ambergate Hospital. She is writing a history of the asylum because she feels it is important research, a story that needs to be told. While there, she has encountered an eighteen-year-old runaway, Nathan who seems willing, even eager to assist. Inexplicably, Sarah’s father, who once worked at the asylum, is less enthusiastic about her hobby. In late 1956, Student Nurse Ellen Crosby began working at Ambergate County Lunatic Asylum not long before young Amy Sullivan was brought in by her father. Ellen felt a connection to this woman of her own age, incarcerated for what seemed to be no real reason. It was evident to Ellen that Amy was not in any way mad but, from her lowly position, she had no hope of influencing the sister in charge, let alone the resident psychiatrist, Dr Lambourn. While Amy does her utmost to convince Dr Lambourn that she is fit to be released home, even as he becomes inclined to agree, events ensure that Amy’s stay will be longer than anyone had ever intended. It’s a situation that was repeated often during that period in history. The depth of research that Hughes has done into practices commonly employed in mid-twentieth-century psychiatric institutions, many of which may leave the reader gasping, is apparent on every page. Hughes easily evokes the era, in particular with societal attitudes, but also with the general way of life portrayed. Her main characters develop from their initial somewhat flat typecast as their flaws and weaknesses, and their strengths, are revealed. Their dialogue is credible and the paths that their lives take is entirely believable. The story is told through four narrative strands: the perspectives of Ellen, Amy and Dr Lambourn describe events in the asylum during the late 1950s, while Sarah’s account deals with the lives of the main characters fifty years later, as well as including a minor mystery set in the present day, and elements of Sarah’s life that distract from her research. Many readers will correctly guess part of the mystery, but the potential for an overly-contrived happily-ever-after ending is thankfully not realised in place of the more realistic conclusion that Hughes provides. An interesting and moving piece of historical fiction. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by Hachette Australia.

    Marianne Vincent

    Rated 5
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Kathryn Hughes

Kathryn Hughes was born in Altrincham, near Manchester. After completing a secretarial course, Kathryn met her husband and they married in Canada. For twenty-nine years they ran a business together, raised two children and travelled when they could to places such as India, Singapore, South Africa and New Zealand. Kathryn and her family now make their home in a village near Manchester. The Letter, Kathryn's first novel, was a digital #1 and international bestseller, and her second novel The Secret has been highly acclaimed. The Key is Kathryn Hughes' third novel.