The Quickening Maze
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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'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
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...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
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 ...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
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
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
The story evolves gen ...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
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
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
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