The Quickening Maze
It is the story of the nature poet John Clare who is slowly going mad, Dr Matthew Allen, the doctor charged with his care as well as the care of many other inmates, the extended Allen family, Alfred Tennyson who has brought his melancholic brother to High Beach for treatment, and staff members who vary from benign to horrific.
The setting itself is a characte...more
The Quickening Maze is a novel about the people associated with a private insane asylum in 1840’s England: Dr. Matthew Allen, the director of the asylum, Hannah, his teenage daughter, the famous nature poet John Clare, who is an inmate,...more
In reality -- and much of this book IS based on reality -- each of the characters within these pages will enter into a maze -- figuratively, through the twists and turns of diseased minds, and literally, through the winding paths of the nearby forest. Some will escape unscathed and others will never emerge. But all will be alt...more
However, this is not a flawless novel. The story requires some concentration, at least at first. But as the prose is so magnificent it is easy...more
The book is based on real events. Nature poet John Clare is a resident at High Beach Asylum in the Essex countryside. The Asylum is run by Dr. Matthew Allen who lives there with his own family. A frequent visitor is...more
I'm not going to share the article with you because if you read it you will instantly be able to write brilliant descriptions in your novels and that would give me too much competition while my own career is floundering.
Oh, all right, then. You've twisted my arm. You're right. Novel writing shouldn't be competitive. We should all help each other to b...more
I haven’t come across this English writer before, but the banner on the front of this book told me that it had been a finalist for the Man Booker Prize. That’s enough for me to give it a try. It’s an historical novel about a short period in the life of Tennyson when he has taken his brother to a lunatic asylum on the edge of London. He then takes up residence in a cottage near the institution to be near him. Tennyson himself has his own problems,...more
Although Clare’s nature poetry was acclaim...more
Through the multiple characters gracing this book, from Hannah, Matthew's daughter who fancies herself in...more
Anyone who is conversant with Clare's work and life, knows the beauty of his poetry and the horridness of his rejections and the absurdity and difficulties of his time locked away. I thought this book would add to my knowledge and possibly...more
This is one of those books that you think you might be able to snarf down in half a day because it's pretty short, has a large font and lots of blank pages between the chapters. But when you get into it you see that it's the other...more
Here is a fragile treatment of Matthew Allen's "insane asylum" during a rough time period when John Clare and a far more widely hailed Alfred Tennyson were both on site, the latter to stay near his troubled brother and not because he was admitted as insane or disturbed himself. It should also be noted that Cla...more
Walking towards the woods, the heath, beckoning away. Undulations of yellow gorse rasped softly in the breeze. It stretched off onto unknown solitudes.
He was a village boy and he knew certain things, He thought that the edge of the world was a day’s walk aw...more
I came for Tennyson, whose anxieties about mental illness I read about in a wonderful biography, Tennyson, The Unquiet Heart: that has much on insanity in his family, treatments, asylums -- so I knew about his semi-commitment of himself. Also, I was pierced by certain 19thC poems from sufferers of insanity. I only knew a single John Clare poem, though.
After a few pages of Tennyson -- it's a short book, if it hasn't happened a third in -- I strongly suspect thi...more
The main thread of the plot concerns poet John Clare as his rage and drinking lands him in an insane asylum. While John is there, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, accompanies his brother, Septimus, to be treated for "the English disease," melancholia (depression). Clare and Tennyson, who capture our interest because of their historical impac...more
Madness is always an interesting read.
This novel is focused on a portion of the life of the "rural" poet, John Clare that was spent in an asylum in Essex in 1830s. John Clare, from humble beginnings, had some success with his early work. However, when the novelty had worn off, this immensely gifted writer experienced isolation and hardship, and finally became insane, spending some of his life in Dr. Matthew Allen's High Beach private asylum.
Alfred Lord Tennyson's brother was institutionalize th...more
In what seems at first a small, genteel, 19 century mental institution, the family that runs it eagerly awaits the arrival of their new "star" patient, the melancholic brother of Alfred Tennyson. As a plus, Alfred himself will be staying nearby. The other somewhat well known patient is John Clare, sl...more
Step away from this book. Seriously, just put it down and walk away. Forget what you've read about its gentle lyricism or the fact it made the Booker short list. Just put it down and scarper. You'll thank me later.
It's not that it's badly written. In fact it's quite well written although if you are judging by some reviews you'll read you might be forgiven for expecting a lot more. But it's not bad.
What it is, is pointless. It's a neatly delivered pointless interlude. There is no heart to the st...more
The story evolves gen...more
It is a historical fiction, just like his other shortlisted Booker candidate Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. But, unlike it, it is shorter, about a quarter of the length. But, like that booker winner again, the writing is exquisite. Just look at these...more
He was educated at Bancroft's School, read English at St Catherine's College, Oxford under Craig Raine, and graduated with an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia in 2001. Foulds published The Truth About These Strange Times, a novel, in 2007. This won a Betty Trask Award. The novel, which is set in the present day, is con...more