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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

3.7 (363 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Overall
3.7 (244 )
5 star
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3 star
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1 star
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Story
4.3 (243 )
5 star
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4 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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  •  
    Patricia Atlanta, GA, United States 09-19-09
    Patricia Atlanta, GA, United States 09-19-09 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    25
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    "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.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Melena 05-27-15
    Melena 05-27-15
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    13
    2
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    Story
    "loved it"

    loved it. I was never bored with the story. the tragic twists of it made it even better. I loved how the point of view changed but was so effortless that it didn't break the story weirdly like other books and stories do.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jessica Oudbier 05-07-15 Member Since 2012

    Female, Military Background, Mother, Wife. Enjoys Science, Medicine (in particular viruses and diseases).

    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
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    82
    12
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    "Fair Warning"

    For those who have seen A Boxcar Named Desire, this will make sense. Throughout the book, in a young Marlon Brando voice, I kept silently screaming "Stellaaaaaaa!!!" Doesn't detract from the book at all, but it seems important to note.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Moombamimi 04-16-15
    Moombamimi 04-16-15 Member Since 2014
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    12
    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "Multi Dimensional and Ironic Title"

    This book offers the readers insight to the suffocating trap of being a woman in a culture and time when women had no rights. Like "Shakespeare's Sister," Stella makes dangerous decisions forced to compromise the morality imposed on her by class and her gender. Lots of good twists and Sir Ian McClellan is outstanding.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shaena 04-09-15
    Shaena 04-09-15 Member Since 2014
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    1
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    Story
    "Riveting"

    I absolutely loved the storyline and character depth. The story seemed very realistic. I would highly recommend it to those who like books that make them think.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brittany Bovee 03-11-15 Member Since 2012
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    2
    2
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    "A most chilling and enjoyable read."

    Fascinating story read most beautifully by Sir Ian McKellan. Intriguing from beginning to end. I could hardly put it down, I must say.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ellen 03-10-15
    Ellen 03-10-15 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    8
    7
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    "Even Crazy is Better with Ian McKellen!"
    What did you love best about Asylum?

    The best thing about Asylum was its narrator, Ian McKellen. His character is ingenious and subtly sly by turns, and goes from being an observer to a player with a silky ease that's quite disturbing.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    I would have edited out some of the information that's nonessential to the plot. There are several scenes in the book that seem more like filler than anything that actually moves the plot forward in any sort of meaningful way.


    What does Ian McKellen bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    McKellen's is the voice of the book - he's not only the narrator, but also a primary character as the action unfolds. His voice lures you into believing that he's simply telling the story of two ill-fated lovers and the fallout from their affair, not that he is intimately involved with all of the characters involved. His seemingly innocent retelling of their tale is made worse when you realize he had a subtle hand in the characters' actions and their ultimate downfall. His hands-off and seemingly benign non-intervention is made more sinister when you realize he could very well have prevented much of the tragedy that takes place as the narrative moves toward its conclusion.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    I think it was the dawning realization that the narrator had a direct role in the outcome that really got to me. It was a slow realization, and was revealed over time through related conversations and casual asides - not presented as a big "ta da!" It made the horrible events more horrible because so many of them could have been prevented with a little intervention on the part of the narrator. Instead, he stood back and with a cold eye watched the ruin of several lives running its course, rather than intervening. His own reasons were never directly revealed, although they were fairly obvious by the book's end.


    Any additional comments?

    It's a great book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. That said, while we were on vacation together, my sister kept asking me what was going on while I was listening, and when I'd tell her, she'd say it seemed exceptionally slow and unexciting. It wasn't what I'd call an "exciting" book, exactly, but more a close examination of several lives ruined by misplaced ideals and fictional notions of love imposed over a reality that matches neither. If you're looking for a high-octane/fast-action type of novel, this probably isn't for you. If you're willing to enjoy a carefully crafted study of obsession, madness, and coldly calculated inaction and ambition, then you'll probably enjoy it quite a bit.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elaine United States 02-28-15
    Elaine United States 02-28-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Interesting story"

    This was not what I expected but had the twists and turns of a mystery with surprise ending. A good read

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michelle Hannum 02-22-15 Member Since 2014
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    31
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    "Couldn't stop listening"

    Ian McClellan is a delight to listen to. The story was intriguing and kept me engaged the whole way through. I couldn't wait to come back to it when I had to stop for work.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Yoklo 02-20-15
    Yoklo 02-20-15 Member Since 2015
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    4
    4
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    "Great Narration"

    This is well worth a listen! Narrated beautifully with great tonation and inflection. Offers some good suspense and twists throughout.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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