Wednesday, January 12, 2011

ASYLUM by Patrick McGrath

The title has a double meaning. Most of the action takes place in a mental institution where the narrator, Peter Cleave, is a psychiatrist and administrator. Toward the end of the book he offers asylum, in the form of marriage, to Stella Raphael. Initially, Stella is the beautiful wife of Max, a deputy superintendent at the hospital, in line for the top job when the current chief steps down. Then Stella derails his career plans by running off with an escaped inmate, Edgar Stark. Though not exactly riveting, the plot moves along at a decent clip, and I was interested in finding out both Edgar's and Stella's fate. The tone of the narration, that of a mild-mannered, even-keel, but not quite objective psychiatrist, contrasts sharply with the lust and jealousy that absorb the two main characters.

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