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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful, lyrical and poignant tale,A Mile of RiverThe Poet's Wife
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emulating the Sublime,
If you've never been to Helpston, birthplace of John Clare, this is the novel to take you there.
Written with the sublime literary finesse we've come to expect from Judith Allnatt,
`A Poet's Wife' is the story of a deep love Patty feels is lost to her by her genius
husband's freefall into madness. Hurt he's escaped from the lunatic asylum to look for his late sweetheart Mary Joyce, who Clare believes is still alive, Patty attempts to conquer her anger and regain the peasant poet's unrequited love.
Capturing the time period with power and emotion this novel is a must for John Clare fans, historical fiction lovers and admirers of Judith Allnatt, one of the most articulate writers in English literature. For those who wondered how she'd emulate the brilliance of `A Mile of River' her latest masterpiece answers the question.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling read,
This review is from: The Poet's Wife (Paperback)I really enjoyed `A Mile of River', Judith Allnatt's first book, and whilst this fiction based on fact novel is different, it easily lives up to her first book. I'm not a big fan of poetry, but I've learnt from this novel. John Clare was a fascinating character and country life was a big inspiration for his work.
Set in the 1840's and narrated by Patty, John Clare's wife, the story centers on her struggles of daily life and bringing up a family whilst coping with John's mental illness. This was at a time when he was in and out of asylums and mental illness was little understood. Patty also reflects on earlier happier times.
There is no big plot to rush along with. I enjoyed reading the book at a slower pace, and whilst it's descriptive, I didn't think it was overly done. It is also well researched and the reader really gets a sense of time and place.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, Compelling & Highly Intelligent read,
Judith's tender, empathetic portrayal of Patty as a young girl and through her life's journey into courtship, pregnancy, marriage and motherhood is gripping and absolutely engaging. I felt her mood, response, reaction and loved her outspoken replies to some of the hurt inflicted on her by her husband, John Clare.
I was at the book launch in the library in Northampton and enjoyed Judith's reading of selected extracts from the book enormously. As I have come to read them myself they are improved and amplified by my recollection of the writer's poetic voice reading her own words. It is a superb portrayal of Patty's heart and the suffering and love she bore.
The description of John's episodes of psychosis and distraction are brilliant and his creative journey so fascinating.
As in Judith's first novel " A Mile of River" this is a superb, gripping, compelling and highly intelligent read.
4.0 out of 5 stars a great read,
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This review is from: The Poet's Wife (Kindle Edition)Beautifully and sensitively written. easy to read and offering a vivid picture of the harshness of rural life and insanity from a woman's perspective.
4.0 out of 5 stars Poetic, emotive, and thoroughly engaging,
This review is from: The Poet's Wife (Paperback)An interesting book by all accounts. Although the plot line is not extremely action filled, the language that Allnatt uses to engage you with Patty's (The poets wife) thoughts and to describe the setting of the novel makes this novel a thoroughly engaging read. The use of flashbacks throughout the novel clearly allows us to distinguish between her past life and her present, allowing us to judge her current predicament. In addition Allnatt uses sets a chronological order to these memories of Patty so in effect the reader grows as the character grows, further provoking this empathy with her. It is very well researched and I reccomend it to those of you who are interested in the works of John Clare or rural poetry in general.
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Book,
Allnatt's prose is poetic, never purple. She skilfully draws you into life in a rural Victorian village which is about to suffer the fate of mechanisation and the Enclosure Acts. Allnatt's research never overwhelms and provides an adequate backdrop to the story of John Clare's family through his wife's eyes.
The first sentence draws you in. Patty finds her husband, who has been away in a lunatic asylum for four years sitting by the side of the road. There has been no money to make the journey to see him and, later, Clare taunts her with this .Patty also has to come to terms with the fact that Clare appears to be more in love with his dead first sweetheart than her.
There are many poignant moments in the book but Patty is never self-pitying or mawkish. She talks of her lost babies, whom she gave secret names, something she never shared with her husband, and recognises that when a baby dies a parent loses them at all ages. Patty talks of a locked box which she still carries inside her and which still has the power to wound years later.
Patty has grace, strength and perception. Her kindness to a poor starving young boy who runs away, leaving his coat, when he is caught stealing apples, shows us her compassion. She picks the coat up, now worried that he will be cold and hungry, and places two apples inside, hoping he will return.
Patty Clare may just have been the peasant poet's wife, but she was a survivor.
5.0 out of 5 stars "...too cruel, this illness that could so change a personality....",
5.0 out of 5 stars The Poet's Wife,
There is so much in this novel it is difficult to know where to start. I believe the strongest lure is being returned to the past, to 1841, where the iron-clad fingers of the Industrial Revolution have not yet grasped all four corners of England's green and pleasant land. Ever since reading Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, I have been smitten by bygone life and love stories - not watery love - but real love, true love, that has to be earned the hard way and then worked even harder at to nurture, to grow, to thrive, to survive; in these essentials A Poet's Wife does not disappoint. Once more, Judith paints pictures of the countryside with an artist's touch, breaths life into the words from her poet's soul, and chooses the correct pace and plot in that seamless and timeless manner of a seasoned novelist.
Through Patty Clare (the wife of the peasant poet John Clare) we experience the agony of living on the poverty line yet celebrate that simplest of joys: the joy of being alive. My heart went out not to John as his madness bubbled into quadruple personalities, but to Patty; what a wonderfully stoic and forbearing woman she is. These rare qualities make her so endearing, neigh, appealing. I rejoiced in the way, despite weighty hardships heaped upon her family, she soldiers on with not a mean or untrue thought in her head. What a phenomenal place this world would be with more people like Patty Clare.
In keeping with the idiom of Judith's storytelling, I would have to glance askance at the speech - in so much as I wanted more of the crisp and poignant exchanges between John and Patty as he skids irrevocably back into madness. A madness I suspect he was born into - such is that horribly fine line between genius and madness - that was exaggerated by the way he lived, no matter how much salve Patty lovingly poured into his wounds.
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written novel by a talented author,
It is clear that he is still mentally ill and this is a story of Patty trying to care for her children and longing for John to return to the man she met and with whom she fell in love. The description of their courtship is both touching and amusing.
This is a wonderfully written book by Judith Allnatt who impressed me with her first novel "A Mile of River". It is so evocative of the period and after savouring every chapter, I reluctantly finished the book.
Judith is very gifted and her description of the countryside in Northamptonshire is breathtaking.
Having lived in the county all my life,I now want to know more of the Clare family and I have been looking at the census returns of that period as well as ordering Jonathan Bate's biography of John Clare.
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The Poet's Wife by Judith Allnatt (Paperback - 17 Feb 2011)