The Letter, Issue 61, Spring 2016, Pages 77 - 81
by Marion Deane
The Last Asylum: A Memoir of Madness in Our Times
Hamish Hamilton, London, 2014.
Barbara Taylor is a much-acclaimed academic historian. The Last Asylum: A Memoir of Madness in Our Times is a meditation on her own experience with mental illness. Taylor was a patient at Friern— otherwise known as the Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum— in North London during a period of transition within the field of psychiatric health care. It is from this unique perspective that she chronicles both her own emotional breakdown and the demise of the Victorian Asylum system in general. However, the main purpose of her memoir is, as she puts it, to serve as ‘a work of gratitude’ to those friends, family, doctors and nurses who helped her along the way and, in particular, to the ‘psychoanalytical process and the analyst who practised it with [her]’.