Asylum by Patrick McGrath

Recommended by Marcus Stanforth (@marcusstanforth)

Form and genre: Prose/Novel/Gothic

Length: 254 pages

Summary: Stella’s husband, Max, becomes deputy superintendent at a maximum security psychiatric hospital and all is good for her and her son, Charlie. Then she develops feelings for a patient, Edgar. A tortured artistic soul, he’s committed for the violent murder of his wife, but this doesn’t stop Stella from falling.

Age recommendation and challenging content: An upper middle class family in the 1950’s, Stella without a job, caring for her son, and bored in a marriage with an inattentive husband and bad sex life. Contains suicide and mental ill-health. Stella loses her sanity as she makes gains in her affair. Great film adaptation from 2005, directed by David Mackenzie and starring Natasha Richardson, Sean Harris, Hugh Bonneville and Ian McKellen (Rated 15). I would recommend this book for Y9.

Notable reasons for recommending this book: Written from the point of view of the unreliable narrator Peter, Edgar’s psychiatrist, who also has a liking for Stella. Links to the themes of forbidden love, lust, obsession, breakdown of marriage, separation, fidelity and parental love.

Other helpful information: A great addition to any school library