The Last Asylum is Barbara Taylor's haunting memoir of her journey through the UK mental health system.
A RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK
SHORTLISTED FOR THE RBC TAYLOR PRIZE
In July 1988, Barbara Taylor, then an acclaimed young historian, was admitted to what had once been England's largest psychiatric institution: Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum, later known as Friern Hospital.
This searingly honest, thought-provoking and beautifully written memoir is the story of the author's madness years, set inside the wider story of the death of the asylum system in the twentieth century. It is a meditation on her own experience of breakdown and healing, but also that of the millions of other people who have suffered, are suffering, will suffer mental illness.
'Personal story, psychoanalytic process, the experience of madness, the feel of being an inpatient in the last days of Friern, the history of the asylum . . . A beautiful memoir, engrossing' Independent
'Moving, brave and intelligent' Susan Hill, The Times
'Dazzling. A great achievement, full of life and hope' Sunday Telegraph
Barbara Taylor's previous books include an award-winning study of nineteenth-century socialist feminism, Eve and the New Jerusalem; an intellectual biography of the pioneer feminist Mary Wollstonecraft; and On Kindness, a defence of fellow feeling co-written with the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips. She is a longstanding editor of the leading history journal, History Workshop Journal, and a director of the Raphael Samuel History Centre. She teaches History and English at Queen Mary University of London.
Eloquent, compassionate, and utterly absorbing. A book about family and friendship, about the complexities of memory, about care and the failure of care, The Last Asylum is the best sort of memoir, transcending the purely personal to confront a larger social history.
This superb book combines both the experience of the patient and the eye of the historian. Riveting, insightful and relentlessly honest, it is both social history and memoir, and makes an important contribution to contemporary debates on the treatment of mental distress
We believe our response to mental illness is more enlightened, kinder and effective than that of the Victorians who built the asylums. Can we be sure? Barbara Taylor's sombre investigation, calling on personal experience, challenges complacency, exposes shallow thinking, and points out the flaws and dangers of treatment on the cheap. It is a wise, considered and timely book
Beautiful . . . it is hard to write well enough about this book because it is so good
Moving, brave and intelligent
Exquisitely written and provocative
Dazzling . . . a tale that compels you to keep turning the pages . . . a great achievement, full of life and hope