Start reading The Last Asylum: A Memoir of Madness in our Times on your Kindle in under a minute. Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here or start reading now with a free Kindle Reading App.

Deliver to your Kindle or other device


Try it free

Sample the beginning of this book for free

Deliver to your Kindle or other device

The Last Asylum: A Memoir of Madness in our Times

The Last Asylum: A Memoir of Madness in our Times [Kindle Edition]

Barbara Taylor
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £18.99
Kindle Price: £6.99 includes VAT* & free wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet
You Save: £12.00 (63%)
* Unlike print books, digital books are subject to VAT.

Free Kindle Reading App Anybody can read Kindle books—even without a Kindle device—with the FREE Kindle app for smartphones, tablets and computers.

To get the free app, enter your e-mail address or mobile phone number.


Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition £6.99  
Hardcover £15.19  
Paperback £10.65  
Earn a Free Kindle Book
Earn a Free Kindle Book
Buy a Kindle book between now and 31 March and receive a promotional code good for one free Kindle book. Terms and conditions apply. Learn more

Product Description


Eloquent, compassionate, and utterly absorbing. A book about family and friendship, about the complexities of memory, about care and the failure of care, The Last Asylum is the best sort of memoir, transcending the purely personal to confront a larger social history. (Sarah Waters)

This superb book combines both the experience of the patient and the eye of the historian. Riveting, insightful and relentlessly honest, it is both social history and memoir, and makes an important contribution to contemporary debates on the treatment of mental distress (Darian Leader)

We believe our response to mental illness is more enlightened, kinder and effective than that of the Victorians who built the asylums. Can we be sure? Barbara Taylor's sombre investigation, calling on personal experience, challenges complacency, exposes shallow thinking, and points out the flaws and dangers of treatment on the cheap. It is a wise, considered and timely book (Hilary Mantel)

Beautiful . . . it is hard to write well enough about this book because it is so good (Susie Orbach Independent)

Moving, brave and intelligent (Susan Hill The Times)

Exquisitely written and provocative (Sunday Times)

Dazzling . . . a tale that compels you to keep turning the pages . . . a great achievement, full of life and hope (Sunday Telegraph)

Powerful (Guardian)

Product Description

The Last Asylum is Barbara Taylor's journey through mental illness and the psychiatric health care system.

The Last Asylum begins with Barbara Taylor's visit to the innocuously named Princess Park Manor in Friern Barnet, North London -- a picture of luxury and repose. But this is the former site of one of England's most infamous lunatic asylums, the Middlesex County Pauper Lunatic Aslyum at Colney Hatch. At its peak this asylum housed nearly 3,000 patients -- among them, in the 1980s, Barbara Taylor herself.

The Last Asylum is Taylor's powerful account of her battle with mental illness, set inside the wider story of the end of the UK asylum system.

Barbara Taylor's previous books include an award-winning study of nineteenth-century socialist feminism, Eve and the New Jerusalem; an intellectual biography of the pioneer feminist Mary Wollstonecraft; and On Kindness, a defence of fellow feeling co-written with the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips. She is a longstanding editor of the leading history journal, History Workshop Journal, and a director of the Raphael Samuel History Centre. She teaches history and English at Queen Mary University of London.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 830 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (6 Feb. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00ED6HLT0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #97,416 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
  •  Would you like to give feedback on images?

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and brave book 14 Feb. 2014
The author, Barbara Taylor, spent 8 months in what was called Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum (which later had a name change to Friern Hospital).

This is the amazingly well told, brave and interesting story of Barbara Taylor. The story of a woman who is a historian, and a published academic, She progressively became unwell and what started out as anxiety morphed into complete breakdown. She had a couple of decades of treatment which included psychoanalysis and her stay in what was called at that time, the Asylum. Her story makes the reader really feel for her. She goes to show that anyone can suffer from mental health problems from whatever background.

Behind her story is a solid history of mental health and the mental health care system. She integrates her own treatment into this history and puts it into context.

The really incredible part of this book is the honesty with which she talks of her story. It is told with such honesty and as a reader I felt touched and honoured to be able to read her account. In places, the book made me feel emotional. There are not many books about that do this to me.

Thank you Barbara Taylor for writing this book.

Highly recommended.
Was this review helpful to you?
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is an exceptional book. 2 Mar. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is an exceptional book. Barbara Taylor experienced a long period when she needed help with her mental condition. She describes very movingly her relationship with her long-suffering therapist, and her experience of being in the asylum- her nuthouse and in various levels of care.
She also gives us the history of the way mental health patients have been treated over a long period. And finally the impact of current policies. Highly recommended.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
After reading Jenny Diski's review in the LBR and for reasons of my own I was interested to read this book and was not disappointed. Compelling because although harrowing to read it is beautifully written, It is about Barbara Taylor's own hellish journey through extreme mental illness (she calls them her madness years), her psychotherapy,and her years as a mental patient at Friern, but it is also a historical meditation on mental illness and mental health care in Britain in that period.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful book 6 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The author is both honest about her personal story and thoughtful in discussing the history of mental asylums in Britain and of the decline in services for mentally ill people today. I couldn't put it down! The accounts of the psychoanalytic sessions were fascinating.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in mental health Not always an easy read, it's a brave and powerful account of one woman's journey through the mental health system and through psychoanalysis, also tracing the history of psychiatric treatment in this country. This encompasses the closure of the old asylums and move to community care, recent issues including severe bed shortages, the rise of Community Treatment Orders and lack of continuity of care. The author, a historian at Queen Mary College, University of London, has organised various events to help publicise this book, including a panel discussion featuring professionals and service users. Sadly, a good number of them, besides members of the audience at the one I attended, concluded that things are now worse rather than better, partly as a result of what was described as quick fix/box ticking culture in the NHS.
Let's hope two things happen: the post Francis Inquiry work NHS trusts have to do to change their cultures has tangible results and the promised 'parity of esteem' (allocation of equal resources to mental as physical health) will be delivered by NHS England and the Government.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An honest insight 22 April 2014
By CP68
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A much needed insight into a breakdown and a journey through the experience and the help that was available - both statutory and in the private sector.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read 18 Mar. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed reading this book. It is well written and the author describes her experiences of psychiatric hospital with clarity and some wit. I particularly enjoyed reading about her experience of psychoanalysis. Her opinions and thoughts on the demise of institutional care and its replacement with "community care" are thought provoking. I worked in mental health services for many years and was part of a team responsible for the closure of a large psychiatric hospital and was very interested in reading about a "patient/client/service users" experience of this process. I also have experience as a "service user" myself and found this book very helpful personally. I thank the author for a great reading experience..
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The necessity for asylum 21 Feb. 2014
This book has really struck a chord with me. It resonates with my life experience from 3 angles. I trained as a psychiatric nurse in the 80's during the time of the author's experience. I also have training in psychoanalytic psychotherapy which, as well as professional study, demanded my own "lying on the couch" twice per week over several years to try and suss out my own demons, as has the author but in a way that only good writing can portray.
This book therefore pulled out many memories for me, and the writing sings. I feel it has been written beautifully, and with my own history, it will stay with me. I have just also finished listening to the final episode from Radio 4's adaptation for Book of the Week. As well as being engaged with the reading of it by Maggie Steed, there is the added dimension of today's politics that I feel enraged by. Whatever politicians say, mental health services are being decimated whole scale. I know, because I have witnessed the whole sorry episode from that point of readily accessible asylum, to the very poor community and inpatient services of today. Needless to say, my disillusionment fits in wholeheartedly with the author's conclusions.

I thoroughly recommend this book, and a must read for anyone presently in the mental health services who may have a jaundiced and cynical eye as to the function of the Victorian Asylums, which are now all destroyed. In other words, don't be seduced by modern day political diktat as to what is the best service for those of us who will inevitably have mental health problems.
Was this review helpful to you?
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Were these reviews helpful?   Let us know
Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Arrived safely, read the book but I thought the ...
Arrived safely, read the book but I thought the author spent far too much time talking about her meetings with the psychologist than giving information about the demise of mental... Read more
Published 5 days ago by I. M. R. Wilkins
5.0 out of 5 stars highly recommended, even if a little sad
A very interesting book, highly recommended, even if a little sad.
Published 10 days ago by Eric H. Turner
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great product, communication & customer service thank you.
Published 15 days ago by Lashieloo
5.0 out of 5 stars A personal view of psychiatriac illness
Thought provoking. A very personal account of psychiatric illness and its treatment as the old asylums were being phased out, but only patchily replaced with adequate treatment... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Kathy Dent
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring
A interesting read
Published 1 month ago by Principality Bookworm
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
very interesting personal insight. Can be heavy in parts.
Published 2 months ago by haydn
4.0 out of 5 stars I think this book is a really great addition to mad history (which is...
I think this book is a really great addition to mad history (which is the history of psychiatry as experienced by its patients) and if you're interested in that you should... Read more
Published 3 months ago by xxxxxxx
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Not read it yet but am pretty sure it will be good. Arrived in excellent condition. Very pleased!
Published 4 months ago by Shorty
2.0 out of 5 stars Disatisfied and deceived
I found the well-meaning title deceiving. There is nothing historical about this bio, neither is there enough reference to her own 'madness' to deserve the bio term. Read more
Published 4 months ago by LizzyHurst82
5.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoyed this book and was sorry to finish it
This book took me back to my days as a student nurse in the 1980's. I remember visiting Friern Hopsital as part of my "Psych" module and many of my friends were there for 8... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Steph
Search Customer Reviews
Only search this product's reviews

Customer Discussions

This product's forum
Discussion Replies Latest Post
No discussions yet

Ask questions, Share opinions, Gain insight
Start a new discussion
First post:
Prompts for sign-in

Search Customer Discussions
Search all Amazon discussions

Look for similar items by category