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3.80  ·  Rating details ·  7,678 ratings  ·  741 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
Paperback, Vintage Contemporaries, 254 pages
Published March 3rd 1998 by Vintage (first published 1996)
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Jodell I read the book and then saw the movie and it made much more sense. My advice is watch the movie now of the same name with Natasha Richardson, I…moreI read the book and then saw the movie and it made much more sense. My advice is watch the movie now of the same name with Natasha Richardson, I believe it was made in 1993. I rented it on my kindle. (less)

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Average rating 3.80  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,678 ratings  ·  741 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."
Apr 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 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 I bought it five years ago at a library sale according to the withdrawn library stamp.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
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


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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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.
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
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
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
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
Feb 10, 2018 rated it liked it
The story was a little ho-hum but McGrath’s writing kept me engaged never the less.
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
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
BAM The Bibliomaniac
Aug 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: traded, fiction
"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.
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
Jan 15, 2018 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cover-beauties
Bought for the cover.
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
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
Apr 18, 2009 rated it liked it
I saw the film first. Knew the book must be better. It was and yet, for all the acclaim, i didn't know the protagonist, Stella, very well or what motivated her. Perhaps that was the entire premise.

The story set in 1959-60. The wife of a 2nd in command psychiatrist at a English countryside mental hospital, falls in lust then love with one of the patients, an artist, confined for brutally murdering his wife.

The book/tale is told by a male, another psychiatrist at the hospital who is treating the
Forbidden Romance and Breakdowns

This is not a horror story, like zombies or gruesome stuff....well just a bit. It is really all about Stella, the Superintendent's Wife and how she fell in love with a patient Edward Stark, in the Asylum. The book mainly focuses on Stella..what she went through I cannot imagine. It also focuses on the Asylum.. From top to bottom ( bottom meaning becoming a patient )Marriage and Love I believe are two separate things, and this book reminds me of that. This is Avery
Denisa Ciubotaru
The plot is crazy! The story seems realistic to the point where I was literally gasping because I always thought that Stella's life couldn't get any worse. I'm looking forward to reading other McGrath books soon.
Angus McKeogh
Sep 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Pleasantly surprised. A psychological novel about a psychiatrist whose wife falls in love with a patient (and murderer) at an asylum. More than I expected.
Oct 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: one-star, reviewed
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
James Adams
Sep 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: gothic
Audio, read brilliantly by Sir Ian McKellan.
This is a well-crafted, if maybe not enjoyable, gothic tragedy. It has an insane asylum, illicit affairs, and emotional violence along with a black sense of humor, but it also has a serious pacing problem. It is rare that a book so short tries my patience to the extent this one did.
The story is straightforward, if you believe the narrator. A doctor's wife falls for an inmate and everything goes to hell. But there are hints and nudges that this is only
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Not a "real" novel 2 53 Aug 04, 2013 12:49AM  
An imaginary book? 1 22 Jun 24, 2009 09:37PM  

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Patrick McGrath was born on 7th February, 1950 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.
“Stella realized then that Charlie's unhappiness had locked him out of this community as effectively as hers had, and she felt a dull sense of confirmation, she felt she might have known, this is the nature of people, they unerringly select as their victim the one who most needs their warmth.” 7 likes
“The uncanny first impression was again one of private hells coexisting in public space.” 4 likes
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