Customer Review

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful evocation of time and place, not entirely satisfying though., 3 April 2010
This review is from: The Quickening Maze (Hardcover)
The Quickening Maze is set in a private asylum in Epping Forest. It covers a period of 7 seasons and traces the further descent into madness of John Clare, a previously successful nature poet.

As his fame wanes John Clare has begun a spiral into insanity that sees him believe he has two wives; one his actual wife and the other his childhood sweetheart, Mary. As his mental health deteriorates further he also becomes Jack Randall, a prize fighter and later Lord Byron, whose poems he begins to rewrite.

The asylum is run by Matthew Allen, a man with his own dark past and family issues, in a manner which nowadays we would call occupational therapy. He allows patients freedom of the grounds and to a degree they are allowed to leave the asylum. Clare takes advantage of this and indulges his love of the natural world with long walks in the woods and through spending time at a local gypsy camp. While initially these excursions help his mental health, they eventually contribute to his continued degradation.

At the same time the Tennyson family arrive, the famous poet Alfred accompanying his melancholic brother, Septimus, who is interned at the facility.

The basic idea behind the novel is that these two great poets were in the same place at the same time and what could have occurred if they met.

An interesting concept, but unfortunately one that is not fully explored. Instead we learn a great deal about Allen's hair-brained and bankrupting scheme to create an automatic wood carver, his daughter Hannah's infatuation with Alfred Tennyson and the insanities of a number of patients.

Whilst all of these distractions make for an engaging read, it is almost as if we are skirting around the main issue of the story and never quite get close enough to it.

The Quickening Maze is a beautiful evocation of time and place, Foulds manages to craft a believable world without resorting to flowery overwriting; which must be a temptation when dealing with the machinations of the mind, nature and poetry. Some of the scenes when Clare is walking in the woods are particularly vivid, as are the internal monologues as his mind unravels.

With so many characters though, none of them are given the opportunity to take centre stage and we are left with the feeling of an ensemble piece rather than the intimate study of a relationship. Indeed for the first few chapters I found the rapidity with which he swops character point of view quite disorientating. I was much more interested in the dynamic between John Clare and Tennyson than Allen's daugher's romantic feelings, and found the lack of focus distracting.

To me it feels as if the potential of the idea is never quite realised. The fact that these poets could have actually met in real life is a fascinating dramatic starting point, but here it is lost amongst family drama, adolescent love and financial disasters. Which is a shame.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
 


Review Details

Item

3.5 out of 5 stars (49 customer reviews)
5 star:
 (8)
4 star:
 (20)
3 star:
 (11)
2 star:
 (7)
1 star:
 (3)
 
 
 
£12.99 £11.52
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Reviewer


Location: England

Top Reviewer Ranking: 8,397