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The Quickening Maze

3.15  ·  Rating Details ·  1,990 Ratings  ·  308 Reviews

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize

Based on real events, The Quickening Maze won over UK critics and readers alike with its rapturous prose and vivid exploration of poetry and madness. Historically accurate yet brilliantly imagined, this is the debut publication of this elegant and riveting novel in the United States.

In 1837, after years of struggling with alcoholism

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ebook, 272 pages
Published June 29th 2010 by Penguin Group (USA) (first published 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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·Karen·
Jun 06, 2010 ·Karen· rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brits
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
Jun 28, 2010 Lilian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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,
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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
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Talal Faisal
Sep 24, 2011 Talal Faisal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Geraldine Byrne
May 06, 2012 Geraldine Byrne rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booker


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
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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
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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
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Vernon Goddard
Sep 24, 2010 Vernon Goddard rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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Jon
Mar 17, 2011 Jon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 24, 2010 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Jane
Mar 23, 2010 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed
“He’d been sent out to pick firewood from the forest, sticks and timbers wrenched loose in the storm. Light met him as he stepped outside, the living day met him with its details, the scuffling blackbird that had its nest in their apple tree.

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
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S.
Oct 02, 2009 S. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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Hally
Mar 14, 2016 Hally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is all about the writing style, so beautiful it draws you in straight away. My favourite passages include;

Our introduction to the mentally ill poet John Clare, the most poignantly presented character in the book;
He lifted the blanket, swung his softening white feet onto the clean wood floor, and stood up, and immediately wanted to lie back down again and not lie back down again and go and not go anywhere and not be there and be home.

The completeness of this metaphor...
Matthew Allen's p
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Eric
Jul 27, 2010 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Sharon Bakar
I met Adam Foulds recently at an arts festival in Kuala Lumpur and was lucky enough to do a workshop with him on creating character. I felt a bit ashamed of myself that I hadn't read this book already (especially as I usually read the Booker shortlist, especially as he agreed to read at the event I organised).

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel - the writing was gorgeous, particularly rich in details of the natural world, and had me wanting to reread passages. He has recreated a small slice of histo
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Tony
Jul 10, 2010 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Elizabeth
Aug 17, 2010 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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

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Derek
How do you even review a book like this. This 'poetic novel' totally defies any literary style I've ever read, and that's saying something. There is such poise and keenness in pace, driving us through the book's metamorphic soaring of the characters, versus themselves, versus a compelling setting, that the build-up and eventual pay-off left me totally satisfied. I'll be the first to admit it, even after finishing this book, I still don't know what it was supposed to be about, there's no visible ...more
Sanaa Shaltout
Dec 17, 2014 Sanaa Shaltout rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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!!
Ron Charles
Jun 27, 2010 Ron Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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Leon
Nov 01, 2009 Leon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Marc Kozak
The people who hand out Booker prizes love them some historical fiction, but as long as they are of the quality of Thousand Autumns, Wolf Hall, and now this, I don't mind at all. This is definitely one of the more interesting situations: 19th century nature poet John Clare is stuck in a mental institution in England, as another poet moves nearby and becomes invested in the doctor's get-rich schemes (and daughter). The story switches perspectives between some of the other crazy inmates, the docto ...more
Laura
Jan 27, 2013 Laura rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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Tony
Jul 05, 2011 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
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Eduardo
Aug 17, 2014 Eduardo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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, an ...more
eb
Mar 31, 2010 eb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
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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
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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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“Madness has no sense of humour” 5 likes
“The world is a room of heavy furniture. Eventually you are allowed to leave.” 4 likes
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