Avril Joy


In 1875, Simone Gastrell is conveniently committed to Long Meadows Asylum by her adulterous husband. Distraught but not defeated, she meets the silent women whose lives within the institution are ordered and defined by men. Alice Semple, a herbalist and wise- woman, does not speak, but gives testimony in her notebook. Phoebe Baines, a fragile, damaged young woman, lives within the soundless universe of her interior monologue. In a powerless world, relieved only by precious hours spent in the Airing Courts and gardens, the three women come together in unvoiced friendship. When life behind the asylum walls grows even more dangerous and brutal, they find their voices and use them to fight for survival.

In their story, readers will hear echoes of women today locked away in our institutions, often brutalised, still silenced and living invisible lives.

Publication: 27th July 2023 (available to pre-order from 27th June)

Paperback: £8.99

Digital: £5.99


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About this book

Before becoming a full-time writer, Avril Joy worked for twenty-five years in Low Newton women’s prison in County Durham. Her short fiction has appeared in literary magazines and anthologies including Victoria Hislop’s The Story: Love, Loss & the Lives of Women. Her work has been listed in the Bridport, the Manchester Prize for Fiction, the Fish Short Memoir and the Raymond Carver Prize. In 2012 her story, Millie and Bird, won the inaugural Costa Short Story Award. Her novel, Sometimes a River Song, won the 2017 People’s Book Prize for outstanding achievement. Her poetry has appeared both in print and online. In 2019, her poem Skomm won the York Literary Festival poetry competition. Avril lives with her partner near Bishop Auckland in County Durham.

Additional information

Book Type

E-Book, Paperback


‘Totally immersive, exquisitely constructed and utterly heart-rending.’
– Ali Bacon, author of A Kettle of Fish and In the Blink of an Eye.

‘Tender and enthralling…a moving and powerful indictment of the
nineteenth century asylum system.’
– Gillian Wales

‘A wonderful novel… rooted in time and place…a skillful portrayal of the human condition and a triumph of storytelling!’
– Novelist, Anna Barker