The Last Asylum begins with Barbara Taylor's visit to the innocuously named Princess Park Manor in Friern Barnet, North London - a place of luxury flats and careful landscaping. But this is the former site of one of England's most infamous lunatic asylums, the Middlesex County Pauper Lunatic Asylum at Colney Hatch. At its peak, this asylum housed nearly 3,000 patients - including, in the late 1980s, Barbara Taylor herself.
Writing about The Last Asylum, Booker prize winner and memoirist, Hilary Mantel said, ''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 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'.
Darian Leader has described it as 'Superb, Riveting, insightful and relentlessly honest'.
At severe risk of suicide and with her nightmares invading her waking world, the author was finally admitted to Friern Hospital, 'Colney Hatch'. Her analyst continues to challenge and support, her friends still visit, fellow patients are an unexpected source of warmth and humour.
Reader: Maggie Steed
Abridged and produced by Jill Waters
A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.