When a part-time worker in a mental hospital meets his old girlfriend inside he is not sure at first is she is a patient. Their reunion is haunted and haunting, and from the memory of their past affair there unfolds a labyrinth which darkens from romantic obsession to feelings deeper and more disturbing. Colin Thubron creates a world of passion, delusion, and reality mingling with unreality, pervaded by an all-consuming sense of longing and of loss.
A nightmare vision of emotional instability and insanity... If Van Gogh or Munch had been novelists, or Strindberg a painter, they would have created similar mental landscapes... A work of fiction whose hold on the intellect is as strong as its grip on the senses: that sounds, looks, tastes and smells like a minor masterpiece
Brilliant... A Cruel Madness brings to mind other novels set in the microcosmic world of a hospital, Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain, Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward, Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
With terrifying vividness, Mr Thubron creates a phantasmagoric world
A quietly extraordinary tour de force
Colin Thubron conjures up, within a tight narrative, a whole persuasive world - not just the physical setting of the hospital, but the tortuous and paradoxical internal world of the warped mind