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The Man Who Walked Away

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  237 ratings  ·  50 reviews
In a trance-like state, Albert walks — from Bordeaux to Poitiers, from Chaumont to Macon, and farther afield to Turkey, Austria, Russia — all over Europe. When he walks, he is called a vagrant, a mad man. He is chased out of towns and villages, ridiculed and imprisoned. When the reverie of his walking ends, he's left wondering where he is, with no memory of how he got ther ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published March 4th 2014 by Bloomsbury USA
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Average rating 3.32  · 
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Sep 20, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A man who is compelled to walk. An analyst with penchant for cycling who is compelled to help the man compelled to walk. I really wanted to like this book. I really thought I would. Or at least be able to relate to it on several levels, as an avid walker, cyclist, reader and no stranger to compulsion...and yet this book just really didn't work for me and I think the writing is to blame. This is precisely the sort of writing that elicits a love or hate emotion, the dreamy, poetic, overwrought nar ...more
An interesting idea and very well written. I've not read Maud Casey before, and this was a welcome introduction to her work. In fact, the writing was what kept me going with this book, because as interesting as the idea is, it didn't grip me as much as I would like.

It's a fictionalized account based on the real life man called Jean-Albert Dadas from Bordeaux who walked miles without knowing he was walking, and would find himself in different cities, different countries altogether. The source fo
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Albert has had a compulsion to walk since the age of thirteen. He has traversed most of Europe, has been arrested for vagrancy, has enlisted, then deserted, the army, yet, he has only fleeting and fragmentary memories of these journeys and events. Finally, a lamplighter, aware of Albert’s compulsion, takes him to the hospital of St . Andre in Bordeaux, once an abbey, now a Psychiatric hospital. The unnamed Doctor develops his own obsession with Albert, promising that he won’t let him walk away a ...more
Galen Weitkamp
May 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Man Who Walked Away is a short novel numbering 231 pages of elegant prose bordering on poetry. It is a book about desertion, flight, childhood guilt, memory and the importance of the present moment.

The protagonist, a young man named Albert, finds himself in nineteenth century Europe. Quite literally, he wakes up and finds himself in Bruges, or Stuttgart, or Tournai, or Bordeaux etc., not knowing how he got there or why. He is amicable, people are generally kind to him, he often wants to sta
Aug 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Wow, wow, wow. This is a three wow book--my highest rating for a work of fiction. The author is an enchanting, nay, entrancing stylist. She is apparently in love with words and I am in love with anyone who can transfer that love to the page. The book is just over 231 pages in length, but it took me over a week to finish the book. I found myself reading and re-reading the same page for what seemed like hours, so reluctant was I to tear myself away from the words.

Plot?? I agree with Geraldine Broo
Ken Deshaies
Apr 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Reading some of the reviews on Amazon prior to reading this book, I anticipated a much different experience. While I found the story interesting, and some of the characters engaging, I also found the writing somewhat pedantic. You could speedread portions of this book and not miss anything. I kept moving forward just to find if (a) Albert's memory was going to be recalled or (b) if some solution to his problem was forthcoming. Neither happened, and it left me feeling more that I was, in fact, re ...more
Apr 09, 2014 rated it liked it
This book was an interesting look at an imaginary story about a doctor and patient based on a true case study published in France in the early days of using hypnosis as a diagnostic tool. Both men were trying to find themselves and make their way through life. One walked and never remembered why and one learned to ride a bicycle that soothed his spirit with it's click, clickety, click rhythm.
Mark Keats
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Click-clickety-click. The sound of the Doctor's bicycle pushing him forward, pushing him to Albert, the man who walks away, is the poetic and felicitous genesis of Maud Casey's most recent novel. Though the title suggests the male protagonist moving away from some specific trauma or event, Casey offers us a novel and fluid way of looking, experiencing, and feeling art, history, and medicine in France at the end of the nineteenth century and at one's ability to tell a story through memory and sen ...more
Charles Moore
Mar 11, 2015 rated it liked it
In the early days of reading this wonderful book I accused Casey of copying someone like Marquez with flowery, dreamy prose that inched along the plot if there was a plot to inch along. But, as the book progressed it got better at being itself which is always good.

The jacket suggest this is a kind of psychiatric insight to the life of Albert Dadas who wandered France after World War One. Wandering is the theme and the substance of the life of the people in the asylum where the fictional Albert
Dec 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: r-ng
Review first published on my blog:

The Man Who Walked Away is loosely based on the life of Jean-Albert Dadas, who lived in nineteenth century France. He suffered from an illness now known as dromomania - an uncontrollable urge to wander. He would repeatedly set out from his home on foot and find himself in cities far away before he regained conscious thought.

In this book, we meet Albert, the wanderer. We also meet Doctor, who is not named yet is a specific
Dec 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
The Man Who Walked Away is not so much a novel as a series of meditations within the minds of two characters: Albert, the walking man of the title, who suffers from what will eventually be labeled “fugue states,” and the Doctor, who treats Albert and invents the label the condition is given. Instead of a narrative arc, we watch the developing sense of self within the two main characters.

Albert and the Doctor have more in common than might be expected: each has lost his parents and is haunted by
This review in its entirety was originally posted at

The Man Who Walked Away, while quiet in the way its story unfolds and sometimes a little slow with nothing happening, is a very lyrical novel. The lines, the imagery it provokes feels as fleeting as some of the feelings that Albert is struggling with, like everything is simply transitory.

Albert was the character that intrigued me with his walks, his endless longing and searching for
Lolly K Dandeneau
Nov 07, 2013 rated it liked it
This is one curious story to be sure and more so with the knowledge that is it loosely based on a real life case in the 19th century. The writing is expressively beautiful even when the story takes its time, crawling along. Naturally the most interesting character is the fascinating Albert whose core we want to reach. The longing for something elusive and unnamed drives him to wander and live as a waking madmen, in a sense. That longing is the seed of his illness and provokes within the reader a ...more
I am not sure what this is trying to be. The plot concerns a man in (I think) 1920s Europe who is compelled to walk and occasionally masturbate around Europe and is prone to memory loss. Then he find himself at a sanitarium populated by the harmlessly eccentric version of mentally ill people (except the veteran, but nothing truly bad happens there). And then the Doctor tries to help him recover his memories and discover why he does this.

I was truly surprised to read the afterword that tells tha
Nov 07, 2014 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book and it is a worthy read that will make you think new things about old ideas, BUT, at the same time I have made a note to self to choose less esoteric books with clearer plots every once in awhile. Maybe I just need a pulp fiction page turner to clear my mental palate. The literary equivalent of sherbet. Helen Fielding, write me something new!!

To be fair to this book and not weigh it down with the history of all of the other turgid but good for me novels I have read lately, I
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Sunday Times uses the words "luminous" and "liminal" (I like that last one) to describe Casey's highly stylized prose. It then goes on to compare her plot to a takeout container holding this Cordon Bleu prose. Clever wordplay, but I think the language is less sumptuous and the plot more substantial than the reviewer suggests.

Dromomania (had to look it up) is the uncontrollable psychological urge to wander, and it is key to both the style and plot of the novel, which is based on a real figure
Jun 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
5 stars because this is just the most beautifully written book. One of those books that not only tells a very interesting story, but is rich and marvellous to read. Some of the sentences I re-read several times and could not go past for a while.

The story is loosely based on an actual case history of a man who could not help walking....and walking. Albert Dadas was a patient in the Bordeaux hospital of St Andre in the 1880's, who after his treks across Europe was unable to remember where he was o
A young man cannot stay in one place, compulsively leaving, on foot, with little memory of where he has been or how he got to where he is. This book fictionalizes historical fact for a look into mental health treatment of the time -- including dismaying exhibitions of mentally ill ostensibly for scientific purposes -- but also showing the wonderful power of compassionate care. The tale's historical authenticity, from the newest inventions to the bleak realities of common early death, taught me i ...more
Russell Nash
Oct 09, 2015 rated it did not like it
Though Casey has a mastery of creative expression and a poetic way with words, I didn't appreciate the sexuality and profanity laced throughout virtually every part of this book. From Albert's beautiful instrument to the doctor's harlot to Frank's f-bomb eruptions, I wasn't sure what worthwhile message would arise from the broken fragments of thought and engrossing plunges into the lives of those domiciled in the asylum. The book came highly recommended for many reasons, but from my need-for-cle ...more
Paula Schumm
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
A special thanks to Bloomberg books and NetGalley for an advance copy of The Man Who Walked Away. The Man Who Walked Away by Maud Casey is a well-written novel about Albert, a man who walks and walks. He doesn't often remember how he arrives at his destinations, but the urge within him to walk is overwhelming, so walk he does. The novel is also about Albert's psychiatrist, the Doctor. The asylum where they meet has intriguing characters, and the book is a case study of not only Albert but also t ...more
Mar 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Based on the true story of Albert Dadas, a man from Bordeaux who found himself unable to keep from leaving home and walking long distances. It is also the story of the doctor who tries to help Albert by giving him the time and safe space to remember; and at the same time, the doctor himself remembers and comes to accept his own life story. Casey's beautiful use of language and her empathy for those characters considered "neurotic" or "mad" makes this a most memorable novel. "A life exceeds our a ...more
May 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
Maud Casey's novel is loosely based on the life of Albert Dadas, a man who suffered from a condition diagnosed as dromomania, or travel fugue. Compelled to walk--without any awareness of doing so--Dadas traveled on foot throughout much of Europe, from his native Bordeaux to as far as Moscow. Casey intertwines her account of Dadas' life with that of the doctor, who is simply called the Doctor here, who sought to cure him to good effect, though ultimately I found the book moving from lyrical to ov ...more
May 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Unusual novel that highlights how difficult it is to manage mental illness both from the perspective of those "in charge" of it and those with it. The individuals who oversee the mentally ill are human beings with their own issues and these influence their response to the mentally ill.

Set in the early 19th century, the novel focuses on a mentally ill young man that can't stay in one place and the mental hospital he winds up in (a very caring place). Parts of the novel are the interactions among
Lisa McAllister
Aug 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
I loved the dreamy language of this book. I also liked that it raised questions about all the characters, but didn't feel that it needed to answer those questions. The oblique storytelling felt very effective in conveying the idea of mental illness. I don't know how accurate this portrayal of mental illness is, but it was very humanizing and sympathetic, without resorting to pity. I liked that. I enjoyed the story, and I also felt like I learned something about humanity. Win-win!
Kris V Bernard
Mar 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a novel I never knew I needed to read until it was on a required reading list. Now, it's a story with so many universal truths I always knew waiting to be seen with new eyes. In the end, fact is irrelevant, story is truth and absence, as always, is presence. The words in those carefully sewn pages will haunt me forever.
Apr 25, 2014 rated it liked it
As with all of Maud Casey's work, the language is gorgeous, and her skill creating vivid imagery is on display throughout the story. However, I never felt fully invested in the characters. Albert in particular should have been heartbreaking, but I was just never able to fully make that connection as a reader.
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
Although I stuck it out to the end, I felt it just didn't go anywhere, so to speak. I didn't really understand the doctor, and the entire "great doctor" story line. Wouldn't recommend, except to perhaps a Psych major.
Oct 18, 2014 rated it liked it
This book was an interesting premise of a man who repeatedly finds himself walking and wakes up different places. It involves an asylum where he ultimately ends up quite happy. This moved very slow and found it hard to finish.the characters were interesting but the plot was boring.
Dominic Neesam
Aug 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
A lucid style, especially the chatter of the asylum's inhabitants renders this novel quite original. The Doctor tries to unravel Albert's story using hypnosis but focusing on human experience rather than the cold diagnoses of the "great doctor".
Apr 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
Based on a true story. Unusual book. I felt it was quite boring in places.
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2015 Reading Chal...: The Man Who Walked Away by Maud Casey 2 14 May 11, 2015 03:18PM  

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Maud Casey lives in Washington, D.C. She is an Associate Professor of English and teaches in the MFA Creative Writing Program at the University of Maryland. She also teaches in the low-residency MFA Program at Warren Wilson and was a faculty member at the Breadloaf Writers Conference in 2009.

She has received the Italo Calvino Prize (2008), the St. Francis College Literary Prize, a Guggenheim Fell
“I dare anyone to find me a lovelier day!” 3 likes
“Beauty is an answer to anguish...” 2 likes
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