Allegorical, metaphorical whilst also literal, Olivia Sudjic’s Asylum Road has much to unpack and take away from every read. Disturbing and unsettling, there is much about this novel that will compel you to read on. A taut, compulsive second novel rife with wit from the critically-acclaimed Olivia Sudjic, there is a definite Elena Ferrante influence on this work, but that makes it nothing less than riveting.
Olivia Sudjic is a British fiction writer whose first book Sympathy received positive reviews in the press, from publications such as the New York Times, The Guardian and The New Republic. Her most recently published novel, Asylum Road has manoeuvred her onto many contemporary literary author radars, as it sweeps you away with unease with every line.
With a synopsis of journeys, there is a constant movement from past to present to future, and none of these are particularly contented. Initially, Anya and Luke go from London (where they reside) to coastal Provence. Anya is preoccupied with her precarious relationship with Luke, which never feels settled or stable. Luke, however, reserved, stoic, gives away nothing. As the sun sets one evening, he proposes, and they return to London engaged, and far from where Anya had suspected they might be returning to the city.
But planning a wedding does little to settle Anya’s unease. As a child, she escaped from Sarajevo during the heat of the war with her older sister to live with her aunt in Glasgow. The idea of security is as alien now as it was then. When convention forces Anya to return home, her past and family haunt in the way she suspected, as she had obviously contained this part of her upbringing for as long as she can remember. This leads to further unease, and a constant life of managing and coping with trauma, much of this resurfacing and triggered by this trip back home.
Minimalist, disturbing and textural, Asylum Road is about the borders governing our lives, in intimate relationships, assimilation and otherness, nations, families, order and chaos. It considers the impacts of Brexit, trauma and intimacy with sophisticated prose that draws you in and leaves you guessing. Sudjic is certainly an intriguing writer that executes an unsettling novel, which you cannot help but inhale to race to the end.
Asylum Road is available now, published by Bloomsbury