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The Quickening Maze

3.16 of 5 stars 3.16  ·  rating details  ·  1,600 ratings  ·  260 reviews
Based on real events in Epping Forest on the edge of London around 1840, The Quickening Maze centres on the first incarceration of the great nature poet John Clare. After years struggling with alcohol, critical neglect and depression, Clare finds himself in High Beach Private Asylum - an institution run on reformist principles which would later become known as occupational ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 7th 2009 by Jonathan Cape (first published 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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·Karen·
This is not a dazzling, overwhelmingly entertaining sort of book, but rather one that works its magic quietly and subtly. The poet John Clare is an inmate of Matthew Allen's asylum, and Alfred Tennyson stays nearby with his melancholic brother Septimus, who is under Dr Allen's care. These are all historical figures, and part of the magic that Adam Foulds weaves is to make these people utterly real, with precise and cautious means. Foulds is beautifully, movingly sympathetic to all his characters ...more
Lilian
When I began this book, I sighed with pleasure, because I knew, in the first few pages, that I was in the hands of a writer who knew what he was doing. I could feel the competence, the control of language, structure and story from the start and it never flagged.

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
Sue
This very interesting novel covers several years in the lives of the owners and inmates of an asylum for the insane in England in the 1840s.
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
Barb
Okay, some people are going to love this novel...I think that they are the same people who loved 'The Gathering' by Anne Enright. If you like poetry and literature that is on the crazy disjointed end of the spectrum this might be your cup of tea, sadly it was not mine.

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
Talal Faisal
Read it? I translated this book to arabic, means, I kept doing nothing for 4 months apart from reading this wonderful and fine wriiten novel.
Thanks Adam Foulds
Vernon Goddard
Sep 24, 2010 Vernon Goddard rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Nobody
Shelves: no-no-books
I was attracted by the idea of this book - essentially about John Clare one of my favourite poets, set in the asylum period which could prove interesting and written by Adam Foulds, a poet of considerable merit in his own right. So, a book to relish and enjoy.

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
Geraldine  Moorkens Byrne


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
Soumen Daschoudhury
As I raise my head from the period marking the last sentence, last word of this book, I wonder.
I wonder!
What did I just finish reading? A lunatic poets’ longing and desperate cry for nature, being trapped within the fenced and tethered life of an asylum; nature, the source of his creations or was it a tiring tread into the discolored faded lives of the sane in the proximity of the senseless, the insane?

Rather, it’s a story of despair, of balancing and swaying on that thin line between sanity a
...more
Jon
A library book which I will buy and re-read with pleasure. Told in a series of vignettes, some only a paragraph or two long, others virtual short stories, spaced over a period of less than two years. We are introduced early to the main characters--the Allen family (father, mother, three daughters and son) who run an asylum for the insane in mid nineteenth century England. Their patients include the neglected nature poet John Clare, a visionary mystic named Margaret, and Septimus Tennyson, the br ...more
Jill
Somewhere toward the end of this inventive and imaginative novel, peasant nature poet John Clare muses about "the maze of a life with no way out, paths taken, places been."

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
Eloy Eduardo
I found the reference to this book reading about the Walter Scott Prize ( 25,000), awarded every year to the best historical fiction published in the UK, Ireland, and the Commonwealth. The Quickening Maze was in the shortlist for the 2010 prize, which was awarded to Hilary Mantel for... you know for what. The events take place in about one year and a half, in 1837-8, when the English poet John Clare –the “peasant poet”– is interned at a madhouse located in the Epping forest, close to London, and ...more
Tony
Foulds constructs a historical fiction in which characters explore existential possibilities that open and close, trying to break out of the maze that confines them -'the maze of life with no way out, paths taken, places been'. Asylum inmates John Clare and Margaret move in and out of madness, struggling with inner torments and worldly constraints. Mathew Allen, Asylum owner, is drawn by a propensity to gamble into investing his own and other's money in new technology, leading to his economic an ...more
Eric
The Booker Prize 2009 disappointed me with its runaway winner, but per my goodreads star allocations, The Quickening Maze ran circles around Wolf Hall...and in doing so took much less time.

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
Elizabeth

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
S.
Adam Foulds possesses a very fine writing style, and that is the high point of this book. The plot and subplots are also engaging, and the sundry characters, based on real people, are winning. The story centers on John Clare, the earthy English “peasant poet,” and his stay at an insane asylum run by Matthew Allen, a doctor/industrialist. Allen’s daughter Hannah is also a character we spend time with, as is the poet Alfred Tennyson, who resides near the asylum to be near his brother Septimus, a m ...more
Sanaa Shaltout
نجمة واحدة فقط لشاعرية جون كلير .. الرواية لم تعجبني
مستفادتش منها حاجه ولا حتى كانت مجرد قراءة للمتعة بالعكس ممله
وما المتاهة في كل ما قرأت ؟؟ لا أعلم!!
Erica Eisdorfer
This is a wonderful novel. Gorgeous language; visceral understanding of madness; a nature poet's look at a nature poet. He looks up into the shaft of sunlight, and feels the creepers in it. He looks closely at the deer as it's butchered, to see what made it live. Foulds feels madness enough to write it and he feels infatuation enough to write it and he feels despair enough to write it, and write it so beautifully that it's transporting. I recalled Woolf and Crace. As for "nothing happens?" Oh, L ...more
Leon
Adam Foulds’s first book of fiction The Truth About These Strange Times garnered very favorable reviews, and won the Betty Trask Award 2007. This second one, The Quickening Maze is just as successful, even more so when it got shortlisted for the Booker.

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
Vanessa Wu
Adam Foulds is a terrific writer. I read an article by him on how to write description and it was so brilliant that I immediately bought this novel.

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
Ron Charles
While a quartet of literary gladiators battled for the Booker Prize last year, a young poet sat on the far edge of the shortlist looking on. Nobody thought Adam Foulds had a chance against Hilary Mantel, A.S. Byatt, Sarah Waters or J.M. Coetzee for England's most prestigious literary award. The bookies called "The Quickening Maze" a "rank outsider," and almost everyone bet correctly on Mantel's spectacular story about Thomas Cromwell. But while all the other books on the shortlist were published ...more
Tony
Foulds, Adam. THE QUICKENING MAZE. (2009). ****.
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
Laura
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Courtney Johnston
In this very quiet, very beautiful book Adam Foulds takes a historical moment, replete with well and lesser-known historical personages, and breathes radiant life into it.

Foulds takes as his subject the private mental asylum run by Dr Matthew Allen at High Beach, Epping, where in the late 1830s the 'peasant poet' John Clare - by that time already passing out of fashion - is an inmate. Septimus Tennyson - Alfred Tennyson's brother - is a fellow inmate; Tennyson is not yet Lord Tennyson, the Poet
...more
Texbritreader
In this excellent novel recounting the madness of poet John Clare and his stay at the progressive asylum of Dr Matthew Allen; we meet a host of others, the isolated family of Dr. Allen, assorted inmates with a variety of troubles and the poet Alfred Tennyson and his brother, the melancholic Septimus. Though fictionalized the author tells their stories deftly and with deep insight, creating fully realized characters without betraying the actual people on which they are based.

The story evolves gen
...more
eb
Foulds' prose is tremendous. The man can really write a sentence, and his precise, perfect observations of objects in nature knocked me off my feet--which is really saying something, since I usually glaze over at the first mention of a tree.

The Quickening Maze follows several characters: a doctor who's created a lunatic asylum in the woods, and then lost interest in it; his pale daughter, who's looking for a husband; Alfred Tennyson, the poet; a madwoman driven to God by abuse; and John Clare,
...more
RH Walters
"Inhaling her small requirement of the boundless air."

Foulds' breathtaking descriptions repeatedly stopped me as I read his book. The "harsh exhilaration that felt like delight" of Dr Allen (a real person) gambling with an investment scheme was perfectly lifelike, yet I felt removed and rarely forgot that I was reading "about" someone. Maybe his level of observation is so fine that the effect is clinical. I liked how a character's destiny might be casually revealed, Pulp-Fiction-like, before mor
...more
Justine Knight
A little to hard to get into, I was difficult at the start to identify which character was which and what part they played. But the imagery was beautiful and poetic, no surprise given the writer. A short but wonderfully written book, i absorbed it in a day.
Joanne
I didn't know much about the poet John Clare's life before I read this book and thought it was both interesting and original that Adam Foulds chose to explore the life of the Asylum at the moment that both Clare and Tennyson (who was not mad but there due to his brother's ill health) were present there. The characters were well drawn and portrayed with warmth. I also enjoyed the insight of the Dr's family life and private psychology, which as ever, leads us to believe that there is only a thin l ...more
Carla
Histórias dispersas que entroncam numa história primordial: A de John Clare, o poeta camponês, internado no asilo de loucos de Mathew Allen na Floresta de Epping.

A premissa é extraordinária mas o emaranhado de personagens que intervêm à margem da história principal não acrescenta grande valor à obra, sobretudo porque não apresentam a profundidade expectável... E suspira-se por mais John Clare perdido na floresta da sua mente...

Ficou o entusiasmo por John Clare, a vontade de o descobrir nos labir
...more
Judy
Well written but very dark and also disjointed and somewhat confusing. Not my type of book.
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757494
Adam Foulds (born 1974) is a British novelist and poet.

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
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More about Adam Foulds...
The Broken Word The Truth about These Strange Times In the Wolf's Mouth: A Novel Granta 123: The Best of Young British Novelists 4

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“Madness has no sense of humour” 3 likes
“The world is a room of heavy furniture. Eventually you are allowed to leave.” 2 likes
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