Asylum Paperback – 28 Aug 1997
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From the Inside Flap
From our most celebrated writer of the psychological thriller comes this nerve-wracking yet eerily
beautiful work of erotic obsession and madness. In the summer of 1959 Stella Raphael joins her
psychiatrist husband, Max, at his new posting--a maximum-security hospital for the criminally
insane. Beautiful and headstrong, Stella soon falls under the spell of Edgar Stark, a brilliant
and magnetic sculptor who has been confined to the hospital for murdering his wife in a psychotic
rage. But Stella's knowledge of Edgar's crime is no hindrance to the volcanic attraction that
ensues--a passion that will consume Stella's sanity and destroy her and the lives of those around
her. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Patrick McGrath is the author of THE GROTESQUE, SPIDER, DR HAGGARD'S DISEASE and BLOOD AND WATER AND OTHER TALES all of which have attracted widespread critical acclaim. He lives in New York.
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Top Customer Reviews
The initiation, the duration, and the fall-out of the affair is all narrated in the cool, clinical tones of Max's colleague at the asylum, Peter Cleave. However, from the very beginning there is a sense that Cleave might not be the most reliable of narrators. He certainly shows a very keen interest in both Edgar and Stella, in different ways, and seems to be omniscient in their lives, if not in reality, then certainly within his own imaginings.
But what is reality, and what are imaginings? The beauty of McGrath's writing is the ability to produces images of abject horror in plain, unfussy language. Indeed, some images become all the more horrible simply because the reader can easily imagine the measured tones of Cleave as he tells us in detail of the psychiatric breakdown of the people involved. The voice of Cleave is sane, but is the character?
This is a book of light and dark. Of summer and winter. Night and day. There are shadows and ghosts and monsters, all of them lurking in the most respectable of people. Asylum is all of those review cliches: compelling, unputdownable, relentless. But, I mean it, it really is.
And the last line. *shudder*
Compelled by a powerful mix of physical attraction, unfulfilled ambitions, and fascination with the world outside her marriage, she embarks on a dangerous affair with a mental patient, Edgar Stark. It is a tribute to McGrath's art that you never question for one moment how it happens or why, to our horror, she continues it, despite the dreadful consequences. In fact, you find yourself almost understanding her compulsion, wondering whether you would be able to do any better than she does in the end.
But the real villian in the story may not be the frightening Edgar, nor Stella, but the narrator himself. Ostensibly a dispassionate observer - a fellow psychiatrist in the Raphaels' circle - you find yourself wondering, as the story unfolds, what is the real truth about what happened to Stella? Who is deceiving whom? And finally, who and what has finally been manipulated?
Asylum has been described as a Gothic novel. I disagree. Gothic novels are filled with spooky references to ancient horrors that may or may not be real. Asylum, on the other hand, is all too real. The fact that there are no sleights-of-hand in it; the reluctant understanding that Stella's situation, although it may be extreme, is all too possible, is what makes this novel the beautiful and disturbing piece of literature that it is.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a truly masterful book of sadness and hopelessness, yet love survives even in the cruelest of worlds. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Mark Smith
This is one of those rare novels that is an absolute treat to encounter.
The action takes place in a Broadmoor-type hospital at the end of the 1950's - and perhaps it... Read more
Disturbing but a great read! Read through this at a fast pace. Just finished reading it on my phone in the doctorsPublished 5 months ago by Jackie m
This novel is a superbly controlled account of the way a woman is subverted but ultimately triumphs.Published 8 months ago by Stephen Bishop
I loved the book! Couldn't put it down! The end lines are really thought provoking! A great story about obsession.Published 9 months ago by Gemma
I have a distinct impression of the characters and landscapes in this novel, published in 1996, being seen through a sepia filter. The author, b. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Dr R
Tragic love story, not normally my kind of book, but book club pick. Held my attention all the way through.Published 20 months ago by Firefly