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Asylum | [Patrick McGrath]

Asylum

In the summer of 1959 Stella Raphael joins her psychiatrist husband, Max, at his new posting - a maximum-security hospital for the criminally insane. Stella soon falls under the spell of Edgar Stark, a brilliant 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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

©1999 Patrick McGrath; (P)2008 BBC Audio

What the Critics Say

"The book is hypnotizing, with its own strange but darkly convincing pace and style; and the way in which nature and climate are woven into the fabric of the bizarre couple's strange love is masterly." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (196 )
5 star
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Overall
3.6 (97 )
5 star
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Story
4.2 (98 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Mebythesea 10-07-08
    Mebythesea 10-07-08

    Tell us about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    74
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    176
    18
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    1
    Overall
    "So enjoyed this book!"

    I just finished listening to Asylum yesterday and have to share that I'm so glad I decided to purchase it. I really had no idea if I'd like it, as I am usually not drawn to a book such as this but I thought I'd give it a try. First of all...I must say that I could listen to this narrator, Sir Ian MacKellen, read the phone book from beginning to end! His voice is simply beautiful and the expression he uses...I can still hear certain sentences end in a whisper almost...just an amazing voice and ability to tell the story! I couldn't wait to start listening again. I only wish I could find more books narrated by this man~

    I really enjoyed the story as well. I still am not positive about the ending...I need to listen to the last chapter again, as there is something I think I'm missing. Oh I think I'll just listen to the whole book once more... I would purchase any book written by Patrick McGrath after having listened to this novel....especially if it was narrated by Ian McKellen! I am also unable to find any other books written by this author on the Audible site. Hopefully in the near future they will share some more of his books with us. It's money well spent!

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Holly Helscher Cincinnati 12-12-08
    Holly Helscher Cincinnati 12-12-08 Member Since 2008

    Holly

    HELPFUL VOTES
    579
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    173
    98
    FOLLOWERS
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    101
    7
    Overall
    "Descent into Madness"

    The beautiful Stella falls passionately in love with Edgar while he is a patient in a mental hospital. The plot that ensues is both frightening and fascinating. The intimacy with which McGrath portrays Stella, her psychological environment, and the surroundings in which she travails is nothing short of brilliant. With each page the reader is drawn into Stella's world with amazing accuracy. Her lover, Edgar Stark, is aptly named because the deeper Stella walks into his world, the more stark her world becomes. Stella's husband, Max, is not the noble man he believes himself to be, yet the reader keeps hoping he will become that. Max is as psychologically damaged as Edgar, but Max's actions are seen as more civilized since they are so well covered. But Max can be perceived as far more dangerous and it could be argued that it is Max who ultimately destroys Stella. Peter, the pseudo-hero is so full of hubris that he realizes too late Stella's true condition and becomes the last victim of Stella's tragic affair. From beginning to end we watch Stella walk the knife edge of sanity until, in the end, she chooses to fall. The book stays with you long after the last word is uttered. It is read well. I highly recommend the novel.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marcia Irmo, SC, USA 10-12-08
    Marcia Irmo, SC, USA 10-12-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    61
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    36
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    Overall
    "Should be a Movie - Book Needs Promoting!"


    This story is excellently written and very intriguing. I agree with Maureens review completely. I was taken with the story from the beginning and after listening once, I had to listen to it again. I enjoyed it more the second time!

    The narrator is perfect for the story line. His voice uses just the right amount of inflection in all situations. This book should be made into a movie. The characters become real and as you listen, you can see them and you feel like you know them. I can see Benicio Del Toro as Edgar and Nicole Kidman as Stella! Add Hugh Grant as Max and you would have the beginning of a very intriguing cast ready to bring to life an amazing story of love, selfishness, insanity and misery!

    I was particularly captivated by the way the author described how Stella felt when she was with her lover. He really understands the various emotions a woman goes through when in love with a not so savory but magnetic man.

    I can not wait until his next book is written! I recommend this book to all who enjoy a good love story with tragic running through the theme.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sarah New York, NY, United States 05-23-10
    Sarah New York, NY, United States 05-23-10 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
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    "An Extremely Subtle Book"

    When a complex book is read by an excellent narrator, the experience is riveting. All the characters are drawn exquisitely, but it is the voice of Peter, the psychiatrist who records the events that we hear -- and until well into the story seems the voice of reason and sanity. Ian McKellen gets the nuances exactly right. Superb, understated writing, superb narration.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CDN 01-15-11
    CDN 01-15-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    52
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    92
    11
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    "Astonishingly good"

    The multiple layers of obsession and madness in Asylum are masterfully crafted right through its final sentence. Ian McKellen's narration is flawless, perfectly nuanced. I have well over two hundred books in my library, and I'd put Asylum high in the top five.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lynne Tehachapi, CA, United States 05-11-11
    Lynne Tehachapi, CA, United States 05-11-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
    ratings
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    6
    6
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    "Fascinating world"

    From the very beginning, this story pulls you in. You want one thing and one thing only: to know what happens. The narration style is unique: it's first-person, but for a great deal of the story, the narrator is only an observer/bystander. At first it seems like it's going to be necessarily detached, and impossible to get into the characters' heads, but you end up primarily identifying with the narrator. He is, after all, the one who thinks rationally and seems to tell the story without bias. You're watching from the outside, yes, but it feels more like sitting down with the narrator and listening to him tell the story. You're an old friend of his, and he's telling you about this intense experience for him.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lori Oklahoma City, OK, USA 01-27-09
    Lori Oklahoma City, OK, USA 01-27-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Worth a listen"

    Like others, I found myself not really liking the main character. Unlike others, that is exactly what I did like about Asylum. I do not believe the author wanted the reader/listener to like Stella. The story is told from a clinical viewpoint, that is, the voice of the Psychiatrist and not of the patient. I came away feeling as if I needed to listen again with Peter as the focus... which is exactly what I intend to do.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lakejewel orlando, FL, United States 12-06-08
    Lakejewel orlando, FL, United States 12-06-08 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    35
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    Overall
    "pointless"

    The reader was great of course, but the story is pointless and predictable. None of the characters give any reason to like or to empathasize with them. I don't care what happens to any of them so I forced myself to finish it.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia Atlanta, GA, United States 09-19-09
    Patricia Atlanta, GA, United States 09-19-09 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    17
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    3
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    Overall
    "The nuts are running the nuthouse!"

    This book was well done...only 4 stars because it ended so abruptly. I think a lot of people are missing the point here...the doctors "treating" the patients can be as obsessed and dangerous in their thinking as their patients, given the right circumstances...that's what was so engaging. Peter's faulty treatment of Stella, clouded by his desire for her rather than her successful recovery, made him as dangerous as the other inmates which ultimately resulted in her death. Very interesting premise and subtle which can make it seem at first like a simple case of adultery.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Victoria Douglasville, GA 06-09-14
    Victoria Douglasville, GA 06-09-14 Member Since 2011
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    75
    6
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Wow what a sleeper"
    What made the experience of listening to Asylum the most enjoyable?

    I think it was the predictability that was so unpredictable.You know it will happen, but when it does it is almost a surprise.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The depth that it takes the depravity of mental illness to.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    No spoiler....but the day at the pond.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I was able to find a place to pause, but it would have just as easily been a one sitting read.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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