Book Reviews of Asylum (Vintage Contemporaries)

Asylum (Vintage Contemporaries)
Asylum - Vintage Contemporaries
Author: Patrick Mcgrath
ISBN-13: 9780679781387
ISBN-10: 0679781382
Publication Date: 3/3/1998
Pages: 272
Rating:
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 39

3.5 stars, based on 39 ratings
Publisher: Vintage
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

18 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed Asylum (Vintage Contemporaries) on + 133 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 20
This is the first I've read of Mcgrath. His writing is very haunting and beautiful and the story stayed with me long after I read it. Very gothic.
reviewed Asylum (Vintage Contemporaries) on + 2 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
Love story within the walls of an asylum and the deepening madness that affects it and the others that observe it.
reviewed Asylum (Vintage Contemporaries) on + 4 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
A glimpse into life of a woman who is yearning for passion and danger. She lives on an estate near insane persons and her husband is a psychologist. This book takes you on a journey through the desires and passions of a beautiful and headstrong woman, who is living during a time when women weren't supposed to be headstrong, or think much for themselves. She journeys from picking the vegetables in her garden and taking care of her son in her hum drum daily routine, to another exciting world filled with danger, artists, and love.
reviewed Asylum (Vintage Contemporaries) on + 207 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
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!
reviewed Asylum (Vintage Contemporaries) on + 70 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This is my first time reading a Patrick McGrath story. It will not be my last. I don't know how I haven't come across his work before, and I feel I have to catch up on all that I've missed out on.

Normally, I finish a book and immediately pronounce to myself whether it was good or bad, and then I'm off to the next selection from my burgeoning bookshelves. It's been awhile, however, since I closed the pages of a story and had to sit and reflect for a few moments afterwards. Without question, this was an excellent book, and I needed more time to think on the very nature behind the story, the characters, and events. Needless to say, I brooded and ruminated on the ending for quite some time.

Asylum, by Patrick McGrath has done all of this. It has all the elements of a story that I like -- a haunting setting in the gloomy and sweeping English countryside, a dark love affair, secrets, and ambiguity.

Stella is the mother of a young boy, Charlie and the wife of Max, an esteemed psychiatrist at a maximum-security institution for the criminally insane just outside of London, England, in the late 1950s. Her day to day life of wife and mother is mundane, and her husband really doesn't have the drive or passion to keep her interested. Only a few patients are granted access to the grounds around the house on the institution, to work on the garden or to redo the old conservatory, with a watchful group of staff nearby. Unbeknownst to all, though, Stella becomes the lover of an incredibly dangerous patient, Edgar. He's quite an artist, but he's also destructively jealous -- his unending stay in the institution was determined because he killed his wife in a brutal and mutilating manner, apparently because she was seeing other men. Stella, however, still finds herself uncontrollably drawn to him and caught up in the passion of this bizarre love.

This is an absolutely fascinating story and it is incredibly written, told through the perspective of another doctor at the institution, the older and wiser Dr. Peter Cleave. I initially thought I wouldn't care for this character, but I ultimately found that not only was it necessary in order to describe a general understanding of the mind -- the breakdown of Stella, the depth of manipulation by Edgar, and the ultimate weaknesses of Stella's husband, but it also explained the neurosis and psychosis of the characters. The insight Dr. Cleave provided was so critical to understand how these fictionalized people became completely devoid of reality only to succumb to the obsession everyone represses -- the ability to become thoroughly self-obsessed, whether or not it destroys innocent lives.

With Peter telling the story, in some scenes almost clinically, it created a much more haunting feel and I felt completely entrenched in the story. Several times it seemed to intensify so sadly and in such a disturbing nature, that I couldn't fathom it to turn more grim than it already was, but the author was able to continue down that path even further. Peter provides a trusting credibility that lends quite a bit to the pleasure that I had in the twists that occurred. I was mortified, angry, heartbroken, and completely engrossed in the story.

Patrick McGrath has created a suspenseful psychological thriller of obsession with oneself. It is haunting and dark, deeply erotic in some scenes, and altogether disturbing. Highly recommended, and I will be on the lookout for more Patrick McGrath books.

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reviewed Asylum (Vintage Contemporaries) on + 5 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Definitely difficult to put down. McGrath spins a tale where all of the characters including the narrator left this reader wondering who was telling the truth and who belonged in the asylum.
reviewed Asylum (Vintage Contemporaries) on + 8 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
A real page turner!! Don't start this book if you have to get up early the next morning.
reviewed Asylum (Vintage Contemporaries) on + 33 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
A great read. The book's description does not do it justice. A real page-turner!
reviewed Asylum (Vintage Contemporaries) on + 53 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I really enjoyed this fast-paced thriller. In fact, I read it in under a days time and had trouble putting it down. The ending was a bit disappointing but it made sense with the story and characters.
reviewed Asylum (Vintage Contemporaries) on + 636 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
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 enjoyed this odd little book and would most certainly read another by this dark author. Though I probably wouldn't overly recommend this to one to just anyone.
reviewed Asylum (Vintage Contemporaries) on
Helpful Score: 1
Its a dark tale of a woman and a man that fall in love under strange circumstances. A Gothic novel to be sure. Worth the read and there is a movie that was made based off this book. The movie is twisted too.
reviewed Asylum (Vintage Contemporaries) on + 950 more book reviews
McGrath moves the narrative along quickly and skillfully in this story of a psychiatrist's wife who enters into an obsessive and ultimately desructive affair with a patient in the hospital where her husband is the administrator. There are too many echoes of Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina here, as a woman with an acceptable if not particularly exciting marriage throws away everything for a man who is, in this case, a homicidal maniac. If that seems unlikely, it only gets worse, as every man Stella meets seems overwhelmed with a mad passion for her. Ultimately, it is tedious rather than tragic.
reviewed Asylum (Vintage Contemporaries) on + 504 more book reviews
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 patient, love affairs gone terribly wrong, sexual obsession and madness but alas hes such a boring fellow the story has no emotional appeal, no sense of drama, and no interesting tidbits to savor and drool over. He skims over the good stuff and me, being the fool I am, continued to read waiting for my interest to become engaged and hoping to feel something for these screwed up people. Alas, I remain a fool.

Doc Peter works in an asylum for the criminally insane which happens to be within walking distance of the home of their newly hired superintendent, his beautiful but bored housewife Stella and their young son Charlie. When an inmate named Edgar is hired on to do some work on their grounds Stella gets all hot and bothered by his sweltering looks and big brawny chest and begins to romanticize his criminal history. She starts to believe he only murdered his ex love because he loved her so very deeply. Awwww, isn't that the sweetest? So I assumed bad things were going to happen and was looking forward to an emotionally disturbing read about a dumb housewife and a hunky headcase but I was so bored I could barely get through it.

This could have been an interesting gothic-y tale but the problem for me was Peters first person narration. It makes the book feel a bit stuffy and distances me from the people hes prattling on and on about. Because the book is told entirely from Peters point of view or from snippets he gleaned from interviews with Edgar and Stella, who withheld all interesting tidbits it seems, we are only told the unexciting parts of the story. Peter has no imagination and doesnt fill in the blanks very well either. Damn it all. Im not a perv, really Im not, but when a book jacket touts passion and strange love I expect something slightly exciting and not a whole bunch of boring accounts of day to day strolls through the garden, tedious conversations and a painfully slow and uninteresting descent into madness.

I waded through countless pages waiting for something interesting to happen and honestly, for me, it never freaking did. Even when tragedy occurs I felt so distanced from the characters that there was no emotional reaction from me as a reader. And when the last revelation made by Peter is revealed I found it so ridiculously unbelievable that I wanted to scream. Finally, an emotional reaction but for all of the wrong reasons! I regret wasting several hours struggling through this book and cant recommend it unless youre into really boring melodramas.
reviewed Asylum (Vintage Contemporaries) on
I really enjoyed this book. Made into a film in 2005, which was also quite good but the book is a really good read with really good characters, well drawn. I've never forgotten the plot.
reviewed Asylum (Vintage Contemporaries) on + 351 more book reviews
Asylum is a story about the consequences of obsessional love. In this dark novel, the wife of a resident psychiatrist at an asylum for the criminally insane becomes deeply infatuated with a very disturbed inmate who murdered his wife. When he escapes, she follows him to London, and his madness unravels in ways that deeply affect everyone involved in their past. None of the characters in this book is likeable. Stella, the wife, is despicable, her psychiatrist husband is a weak "mama's boy," and the peripheral characters are without redeeming qualities. The novel is narrated by Cleave, another psychiatrist with his own agenda. Patrick McGrath is certainly a master at displaying the dark side of human nature.
reviewed Asylum (Vintage Contemporaries) on + 272 more book reviews
A dark read with a Gothic feel to it. Mcgrath's writing is so controlled that he makes horrible scenarios sound lovely. A story of madness, obsessive love, and flaws of the human soul. Drew me in and didn't let go till the very end.
reviewed Asylum (Vintage Contemporaries) on + 574 more book reviews
Excellent novel that delves into the world of the criminally insane. I have had this book on my shelves for several years and finally got around to reading it after reading some good reviews of it and other McGrath novels at Amazon.com. ASYLUM tells the story of the wife of an asylum psychiatrist, Stella, who falls in love with one of the inmates, Edgar, who is also a sculptor and artist. Unfortunately, the inmate is severely disturbed and had murdered his wife who he thought was unfaithful to him. Stella ends up assisting in Edgar's escape from the asylum and she later follows him to a dreadful artist's studio in the slums of London. Well, all does not end up well for either Stella or Edgar. I was very impressed with McGrath's style of writing and will be seeking out some of his other works. The tone of the work reminded me a lot of Emile Zola, especially THERESE RAQUIN. Overall a high recommendation for this one.
reviewed Asylum (Vintage Contemporaries) on + 79 more book reviews
This book was very different, but in a good way.