A story of self-obsession narrated by the point of view of a psychiatrist, published as a Penguin Essential for the first time.
As a psychiatrist in a top-security mental hospital in the 1950s, Peter Cleave has made a study of what he calls 'the catastrophic love affair characterized by sexual obsession.' His experience is extensive, and he is never surprised. Until, that is, he comes reluctantly to accept that the wife of one of his colleagues has embarked on such an affair...
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
A passionate love story lies at the heart of Patrick McGrath’s ominous thriller. Set in 1959 within a psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane, the novel tracks the perilous affair between inmate Edgar Stark and Stella Raphael, whose husband serves as the asylum’s deputy superintendent. Using Stark’s cultured psychiatrist—Peter Cleave—as a narrator is McGrath’s masterstroke. As the insidious tale unspools dramatically and violently, Cleave offers a measured, nuanced take on the shocking events.
McGrath (Dr. Haggard's Disease) has a mind that revels in the toxic side of things. In this tale of headlong descent into darkness and despair, the toxicity comes from obsessional love. Stella Raphael is the lovely but dissatisfied wife of Max, a resident psychiatrist at an asylum for the criminally insane in the countryside near London. She becomes infatuated with Edgar Stark, a sculptor who murdered and mutilated his wife in a delusionary fit, and the two contrive a passionate affair when Edgar is assigned to work in the Raphaels' garden on the asylum grounds. Stealing Max's clothes, Edgar escapes to London and goes underground, where Stella eventually follows him. When he begins to manifest the same furious jealousies that led to his wife's murder, she flees home again, only to find she has ruined her husband's career. The Raphaels, with their young son, Charlie, are exiled to a remote hospital in rural Wales, where further disaster strikes as Stella drifts into her own desperate delusions. The story is told by another psychiatrist at the asylum, ostensibly through interviews with Stella. Although the doctor's own interpolations are sometimes a relief in the supercharged atmosphere, this seems an unnecessary device, and the intended frisson of his participation in the somber conclusion doesn't come off. In every other respect, however, 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. 75,000 first printing; paperback rights to Vintage; rights sold in the U.K. and six European nations; author tour.