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Asylum

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  11,101 ratings  ·  1,015 reviews
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 c
...more
Paperback, Vintage Contemporaries, 254 pages
Published March 3rd 1998 by Vintage (first published August 29th 1996)
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Javier Based on my reading I think Stella is able to manipulate men. She can recognize something in them that they are wanting and use that to her advantage.…moreBased on my reading I think Stella is able to manipulate men. She can recognize something in them that they are wanting and use that to her advantage. I got the impression she was physically attractive to begin with and most men are a sucker for a beautiful woman who acts like she needs them.(less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  11,101 ratings  ·  1,015 reviews


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Paul Bryant
Nov 20, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
It says on the back this book is a meditation on the nature of love. So, what is love? Love is when someone gently tugs this book out of your hands and says "you don't need to read this one, dear. All the quotes on the back were paid for. It's high class tripe." ...more
Bark  |  Ladies Of Horror Fiction
This has been sitting on the bottom of a huge pile of books in my bedroom that topples over every time one of my dogs flops down for a nap. I'm getting sick of picking them up and will read them from the bottom up. It's like a Survivor Challenge as I wiggle out the bottom book without causing the whole lot to topple upon my head. I bought it five years ago at a library sale according to the withdrawn library stamp. Shameful.

Psychiatrist Peter Cleave tells a supposedly sordid tale of a former pat
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Michael Fierce
Aug 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Patrick McGrath
Recommended to Michael Fierce by: long-ponytail-haired ex-employee of The Dark Carnival, Berkeley, CA
Shelves: gothic

description

I first discovered Patrick McGrath in 1988 with his often overlooked and under-appreciated short story collection, Blood and Water and Other Tales, and became a huge fan of his from then on.

In 1990, I read his best book to date, The Grotesque.

Both, are amazing pieces of Gothic fiction.

Back in those days it was very difficult to find quality writers following in the footsteps of Edgar Allan Poe, especially those who were able to make their own unique imprint and capable of breaking new ground.
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Becky
I don't think I would have ever read this if not for the fact that I saw it on Audible, read by Ian McKellan. How could I resist?

I kinda wish I had, though. Sir Ian's reading was great, don't get me wrong, and he was a perfect reader for the narrator of the story, but the story itself was just so... uneventful.

I thought that this was supposed to be a psychological thriller, but there was absolutely nothing thrilling about it. The narrator is a psychiatrist relating everything to the reader as
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Anna Janelle
May 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Where has this book/author been hiding all my life? Because I'm SERIOUSLY impressed. It's a rare book that makes you want to flip to the beginning IMMEDIATELY after finishing it for a second go-through, but I was tempted with "Asylum." It was that layered, that satisfying, that good. I'm only forgoing it to start Goodreads stalking the author for more books to add to my growing Better World Books order.

The book is a work of art, painted in cold, clinical strokes on an increasingly unreliable can
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Tony
Dec 12, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british
Sexual obsession, decapitation, enucleation, maternal filicide, psychological unraveling. Or what we call Thursday around here.

A psychiatrist's unhappy wife falls for an artist, institutionalized in a mental hospital for a gruesome murder. It goes without saying this will not end well.

The novel is certainly cinematic but is saved from being a shlock psychological thriller because its narrator is another psychiatrist who in one way or another is treating everyone else involved. So, it is inquisit
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Amanda
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

Fascinating, dysfunctional tale of obsessive love.
Jenn Ravey
Jan 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
"Stella Raphael's story is one of the saddest I know," intones Dr. Peter Cleave, the senior psychiatrist in the mental hospital central to Asylum by Patrick McGrath. Asylum is a story of obsession.

Stella and her husband Max have moved outside London for Max's job. Hoping to eventually become superintendent of the facility, Max is quite involved in the asylum's day-to-day activities, and the couple's home is on the property. Max has big plans, including renovating the conservatory and gardens of
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Sharron
May 07, 2009 rated it did not like it
This book is totally pointless and depressing. The only thing going for the audio version is the narration by Sir Ian McKellan. There was not a single sympathetic or positive character, not much atmosphere or sense of place, and little motivation for some of the odder events. This book didn't teach me anything, didn't entertain me, and didn't inspire any insight or thinking on my part -- a total waste of time! ...more
Ridge Cresswell
Mar 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
I had already read one book by Patrick McGrath, The Grotesque, when I picked this one up. This book is more subtle and more beautiful in many ways. Told from the perspective of the main character's friend and eventual psychiatrist, it follows the arc of a desperate, obsessive love, and reactions to the loss of said love. McGrath's prose gives us a perfect window into the setting, mood, and overall feeling of each scene, all the while colored with the emotions of the narrator. It's a strange sort ...more
Marvin
Jul 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
Asylum is almost old fashioned. It has a Gothic ring to it and although it is set in 1959, the setting feels a bit older. The plot starts out as a strange love story. The wife of the superintendent of a mental asylum falls for a charismatic schizophrenic artist who is clearly dangerous for all involved. Yet the tale is narrated by the artist's psychiatrist and while he starts out as a neutral narrator in a style that slightly mimics a clinical case study, we slowly discover that this may also be ...more
BAM Endlessly Booked
Aug 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, traded
"Tragedy isn't as rare a feature of life as we sometimes imagine," and boy, does this book prove the quote. The depth of suffering and impotence is only bested by the expressions of delusion. The author expertly weaves a story of constant cause and effect, reminding the reader that our decisions have consequences not just for ourselves but for others, and sometimes it's nearly impossible to live with them. ...more
Beth The Vampire
*breathes deeply*

Okay, I’m going to review this book from two different perspectives; as a social worker, and from a student.

First, a summary. Stella is the wife of a psychiatrist and lives next to an asylum, with the alluring, wife-murdering Edgar on loan to help fix the conservatory out the back of Stella’s home. After a while they begin an affair, and surprise, Edgar manages to escape. What follows is a story of Stella struggling with her life, which includes abandoning her husband and child
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Emma Darcy
Feb 20, 2015 rated it liked it
Oh, Stella :/

The Next Day: This book is about how an emotionally vulnerable and alienated woman is so incredibly mishandled by all of the men in her life that everyone's lives are ruined. Seriously, Stella is pretty with it in the beginning, barring a cold marriage and a bit of a drinking problem from her isolation. But after entering a sexually obssessive affair with a mental patient who is an attractive but volatile paranoid, she is systematically abused and taken advantage of by every man she
...more
Liz Hoffman
Dec 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Such a mesmerizing story with hypnotic narration by Sir Ian McKellen. I kept wanting to know more, until the very disappointing end. All of the potential from this wonderful story - fizzled out. It could have been a great ending and it had the build up to be clever at the end. Instead the potential was wasted and the ending was dull. Still a compelling story, but I love a big bang at the end and was disappointed with this ending.
Paula
Nov 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
I agree with some other comments, based on the jacket you are expecting a sordid tawdry story. In reality, the events are told with a clinical psychiatrist at the helm, describing the events of his patients life and downfall as he understands them. He does skip the juicy bits, so if you're looking for smutty you will be disappointed. Literally speaking I thought it was a very good book. The author has a wonderful command of the English language and with concise writing and the detachment (or not ...more
Jonathan Briggs
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Max Raphael is all set to take over the administration of a mental hospital when his wife, Stella, gets a look at Edgar Stark, one of the prize patients. He's dreamy, rugged, artistic. Everything that Max is not. So Edgar chopped his wife's head off, we all have our little quirks. Stella helps Edgar escape, and they're off to live like bohemians in London. But Stella discovers life in an artist's loft with a psychotic sculptor prone to violent fits of jealous rage isn't quite the domestic bliss ...more
Katie
Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
Started and finished this while I was away on vacation. I was so looking forward to this as an engrossing guilty pleasure but the writing and plot felt incredibly stale. This was completely do the the POV as the story was entirely told from the perspective of a psychiatrist from the hospital and not from one of the major characters. Having a story told to me as a recount of what someone else recounts to someone else (the woman telling the psychiatrist what occurred) was INCREDIBLY dull and took ...more
Henry
Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I've read this book two or three times over the years and really found it engaging! Highly recommended!! ...more
Sandie
Feb 10, 2018 rated it liked it
The story was a little ho-hum but McGrath’s writing kept me engaged never the less.
Victoria
Jun 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lit-fic
A VERY different sort of tragic love story. Though the setting is in the early 1960s, this tale has a true Victorian-Gothic feel to it. And the narration! How fascinating for the narrator to not have his own pull until the end of the book! That in and of itself makes the book cry for re-reading, for discussion - even for study. It's impossible to really understand the characters - the two main lovers - as their individual acts are horrific, but at the same time, horrifyingly fascinating.
I truly
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Mark Joyce
Apr 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
A bleak, unpleasant book that I was relieved to finish whilst simultaneously applauding one of the most effective twists I’ve read in a long time. The central characters are all unlikeable and the style is cold (deliberately so - it’s written ostensibly as a psychiatric case history, although there’s something else going on that doesn’t become fully event until the very end and is so insidiously introduced that my rating travelled from two to four stars in the course of the last couple of pages) ...more
☕Laura
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books
This is a new writer to me whom I discovered in an indie bookstore, and discoveries like this are what I love most about indie bookstores! I really appreciated the gothic feel of this despite its more contemporary copyright and the ability of this book to unnerve me in the most satisfying way. I will definitely look to read more by this author.

Ratings (1 to 5)
Writing: 4
Plot: 5
Characters: 4
Emotional impact: 4
Overall rating: 4.25
Hiba Arrame
Oct 12, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
I usually like disturbing stories, but there was something about this one that just didn't feel right. I thought that the focus was on Edgar Stark's disillusional thoughts and behaviors, but then it all turned into some story about men's fascination and attraction to Stella, and I couldn't help but wonder whether this was the point of the whole story.

For a psychological thriller, this was very dull. The narration was very clinical and done in a matter-of-fact manner, and it frankly bore me to de
...more
Alisha
Feb 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
Despite the many mixed reviews on this book, I enjoyed it. It was somewhat anticlimactic though. I had hoped for more suspense. A first hand account of the dysfunction would’ve been preferable to a clinical third party perspective. Regardless, I still really liked it and will probably read it again someday.
Di
Oct 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Gothic tales automatically gives me an eerie vibe. This story though is far from being scary other than some gruesome and disturbing parts.

It’s an okay story that holds my interest solely because of the vibe it had given me the entire time.

If you’re into gothic tales then you might want to give this a try.
Mrs. Danvers
This kept my attention throughout but the payoff was disappointing.
Melissa Chung
Jul 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: asylums
I am rating this book 2.5 stars. Almost a 3 because I was desperate to read it to the end only to find out what happens.

This is described as a gothic horror, a romance, a mystery crime novel. I would categorize this book as a depressing book about obsession and selfishness.

The narrator of this book is a psychiatrist at a psychiatric hospital outside of London. His main patient is Edgar Stark a psychopath who murdered his wife with the delusion that she was being unfaithful, contrary to having an
...more
Emma
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
Asylum creates an insurmountable problem within its first couple of chapters: not a single one of the characters is likable. By its nature, the book asks us to sympathize with a variety of selfish, self-obsessed, frequently drunken and sometimes murderous people and Patrick McGrath fails to make us care about them. By the time their often tedious dramas come to an end, we are almost as fed up and tired as the heroine.
Stella's affair with Edgar is never believable. Edgar would need a magnetic per
...more
Dario
Oct 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: one-star
This was easily one of the most tragic stories I have ever read, and as such I highly doubt I will re-read it, or recommend it to a friend.

I wanted to like this novel, I really did. The writing style is some of the best I have encountered this year, a seamless narration that makes reading this feel like watching a thriller film. The story in itself is original and captivating, blending adultery, mental illness, mystery and family life all in one. But I just don't see myself telling someone "You
...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
What's the Name o...: SOLVED. Wife of mental hospital director falls in love with patient. [s] 6 25 Jan 04, 2020 02:13PM  
Not a "real" novel 2 56 Aug 04, 2013 12:49AM  
An imaginary book? 1 22 Jun 24, 2009 09:37PM  

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Patrick McGrath was born in London and grew up near Broadmoor Hospital where his father was Medical Superintendent. He was educated at Stonyhurst College. He is a British novelist whose work has been categorized as gothic fiction. He is married to actress Maria Aitken and lives in New York City.

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