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Asylum Paperback – 28 Aug 1997

4.5 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (28 Aug. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140258221
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140258226
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 277,331 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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.


Inside This Book

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First Sentence
The catastrophic love affair characterized by sexual obsession has been a professional interest of mine for many years now. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is one of the most engaging and gripping reads I have ever come across. McGrath has an incredible skill of drawing the reader into a false sense of security before cruelly creating the some of the darkest and most depressing scenes in modern literature. Stella is a woman trapped in a loveless marriage with a longing for passion. She finds it in Edgar, an articulate and seemingly sane prisoner of an Asylum. The book is woven in an unsentimental and stark, often harsh format by a psychiatrist. This clever viewpoint allows the book to maintain a raw and very real feel throughout. The disturbing nature of the book and its haunting characters played on my mind for many months afterwards. I would recommend it to anyone who simply has a love of words and love stories in their original, tragic structures...
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Format: Paperback
Max Raphael is the new Deputy Superintendent at a provincial asylum outside London. Stella, his beautiful, gregarious, intelligent wife is suffocating in her marriage. She embarks on a intense and dangerous affair with patient Edgar Stark, who is incarcerated for murdering his wife and then mutilating her corpse.

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*
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By A Customer on 2 Feb. 2001
Format: Paperback
Haunting, compellingly written, Asylum tells the story of Stella Raphael, the beautiful, impressionable young wife of Max, a forensic psychiatrist at a well-respected psychiatric institution outside of London. Unlike some fictional "unhappy wives", Stella is not a foolish heroine; in fact she is intelligent, perceptive, and quite well-versed in her husband's metier, a fact which will serve her well later in the story.
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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
once or twice in a year you come across a book that you really can't put down. It is a cliche but sometimes it can prove more than true. Asylum is one of these books - I read it between everything I did during a day and just found it impossible to put down. McGrath is a superb writer and this story of Stella and her descent into (or escape from) an unreal life is charted beautifully. The inevitable tragedies, though seen from the beginning, are still an emotional shock. I loved the fact that the narrator is another of the doctors at the asylum, which is not made immediately clear who, but you know Stella's fate from the get go. You feel as if you are standing alongside the narrator, Peter, and both of you slowly watch this beautiful woman be crippled by desire. This really is a fantastic read and though the first of McGrath's novels I have read, I assure you it won't be the last. This novel will stay with me for a long time - easily one of the best 10 novels I have ever read.
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Format: Paperback
This is a truly wonderful and memorable book. It is challenging, yet highly engaging. As a psychologist, I found his insight into the human psyche and the fallability of those who are presumed to have privileged insight into what constitutes sanity and instanity extremely impressive The best book I have read for a year or two.
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