Book Review: Asylum by Patrick McGrath
July 6, 2011 33 Comments
This book was recommended to me by Coffee and a Book Chick although I can’t quite remember in what context. Anyway, that doesn’t matter. I got it, I read it and I liked it, a lot.
Asylum: What it is about
In the late 1950s, Stella and her husband Max move to a mental asylum where Max will be working as a deputy superintendent. Their house is on the hospital terrain.
Stella is rather bored in this isolated place and befriends a patient who is working in their garden and greenhouse (together with other patients). This is Edgar Stark, a serious case, who has killed and beheaded his wife for suspected adultery.
Max doesn’t know about her increasingly close relationship with Edgar while Edgar makes good use of his contact with the outside world (i.e., with her).
In the end, everything falls apart, and Stella has to choose between her stable but boring husband, or exciting (but potentially dangerous) Edgar.
Asylum: What I thought
I enjoyed reading this book a lot. It’s told by Peter Cleave, one of the psychiatrists and he obviously has the whole story straight from Stella. It seems that she did not talk to him solely as a colleague’s wife but also as a patient.
For most of the book, it’s unclear how it came about that she told Peter her story. That made the whole book a bit mysterious. How did she end up as Peter’s patient when she was the wife of his colleague?
I didn’t at all approve of her relationship with the inmate. Although I could theoretically understand that she was bored in the isolated hospital, I could not imagine that she would want to be friendly with Edgar. On the other hand, we have to remember that the story was told from the perspective of Peter, and since Edgar was his patient as well, he knew more about what Edgar had done and was still capable of doing, than Stella.
The woman made some really bad choices, but the book was so interesting! I didn’t feel the need to read it all in one go, but I was definitely keen to find out what happened next.
The book was very well written too, a literary style that is not over the top. The author wasn’t trying to be clever, it felt genuinely like his way of writing. I’ll definitely want to read more by Patrick McGrath!
This book turned out to be ideal for the Atrocious Covers Challenge. Look at the cover below!
I really don’t like that very depressing cover. But since I got the book from bookmooch, I didn’t actually select the book on the basis of the cover, which was a good thing for once.
I was really wondering whether I’d have any books for the Atrocious Covers Challenge as I do select books based for a great deal on their cover. But yes, here is my first (out of the two that I committed to do for this challenge). Anyone has another great book with an awful cover, please?
I got this book: from bookmooch.com
I read this in: English, the original language
Number of pages: 249
First published: 1996
Genre: literary fiction