The Quickening Maze Paperback – 6 May 2010
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"A seamless blend of historical fact and fiction...Foulds's writing has a poetic intensity and his descriptions of the autumnal woods around the asylum are as piercingly keen as his insight into the minds of the patients, the doctor and his family" (Daily Mail)
"Adam Foulds won the 2008 Costa Poetry Award, and he is a skilful poet. These talents are well displayed in his prose which, while lyrical, never grows fussy or highfalutin'. He draws a walk-on character with a few deft strokes" (Lionel Shriver Telegraph)
"A work of strikingly beautiful, unforced writing" (Daily Express)
"The chief pleasure of the book is its prose: exquisite yet measured, precise, attentive to the world" (Sunday Telegraph)
"Fould's exceptional novel is like a lucid dream: earthy and true, but shifting, metamorphic - the word-perfect fruit of a poet's sharp eye and novelist's limber reach" (The Times)
'The world he evokes...is conjured up with remarkable intensity and economy of means' --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The prose is at times quite luminous, and in describing the natural world Foulds has a genuine talent. Certainly he has made great effort to be poetical in his descriptions, and evidently this to widespread acclaim. However I am hesitant to add the possible heresy that at times he seems to have tried rather too hard to find the "right" adjective (often, that is, a strikingly incongruous one). I don't say this in exasperation, since in fact Foulds' vocabulary is not especially showy (though there is a whiff of ostentation), but its usage can greatly affect the flow of the narrative -- it takes a fine judgment to know when to employ some arresting terminology and when to let the sweep of the story carry the reader along. Foulds achieves beauty in the minutiae and in the countless vignettes (the scene in which a deer is eviscerated and cooked is majestic), but this does not to my mind translate into a beautiful novel. In this regard I was reminded of a previous Booker winner, John Banville's "The Sea", which I felt sure to enjoy after the opening pages, but whose pretensions ultimately dwarfed its achievements. That is an unfair judgment in this case (and maybe in the other!Read more ›
The book is sparsely written. Foulds does not write lengthy descriptive or scene-setting passages, but each small vignette contributes to a rich picture of the cloistered life of a 19th century private asylum. This is no mad-house. The asylum is run on orderly lines by Dr Matthew Allen, a thoughtful man who likes to get to know his patients. However, the finances of the asylum are precarious and Foulds describes Allen's attempts to mix the cure of souls with mechanical invention and patents. Poor Allen finds his time increasingly spent trying to "diversify his business", but without success.
In the meantime, the patients are allowed a relative freedom, and for a while John Clare is allowed a day-pass from his confinement, a privilege he abuses by staying overnight with gypsies and returning much the worse for wear. I found the section where Clare is with his gypsy friends particularly well-written, showing the considerable research Foulds has put into this book. The detailed description of how to prepare a hedgehog for the pot is particularly enlightening.
Alas, despite his occasional forays beyond the asylum, John Clare's mind is far from peace.Read more ›
The novel opens with John Clare, the peasant poet, as a village boy exploring the world and finding his way home to his loving mother. It ends with his long walk home to Northampton from Essex and being found by his wife Patty. John Clare has been an inmate of Mathew Allen's asylum - a man enlightened for his day but obsessed with business success and not a good businessman, as we find out in one of the narrative strands of this novel.
Foulds is a poet and imagines himself into John Clare's world very well - his day out from the asylum in the wood, and at one with nature and with the gypsies, is beautifully written and lingers in the mind. It is in sharp contrast to the confusion in the asylum itself.
Allen's daughter Hannah has her own narrative thread - finding a suitable husband - and it is gripping partly because her options are so limited. The Tennyson brothers, from a melancholy family, are staying whilst Septimus receives treatment. Alfred, later Lord Tennyson is the object of Hannah's romantic interest and she takes the initiative, visiting him:
`She thought of a question that might startle him into a renewed appreciation of her. He would know at least how advanced, how daring she was.
`May I ask you, what is your opinion of Lord Byron's poetry?'
Byron is still a daring poet for a young girl to read. She hopes to dazzle him with her intellectual and sensual abilities if not with her beauty.
Clare, in his madness, thinks that he is Byron at times, at times he thinks himself a boxer.
I am never sure about novels based on real characters and this book is certainly not fully successful from a structural perspective - insufficient narrative pull. For me, in this case Foulds' imagination wins the day; atmosphere and language triumph over the narrative issues.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If baffles me because the background to the story was so obscure. Some of the writing was lyrical. Iit would have been much better if there had been a starting chapter as a potted... Read morePublished 4 months ago by christopher thornton
this was chosen by my book club, as we all live near Epping Forest, it took me a while to get into this book, but when I actually started reading it, I enjoyed it. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Carole E. Oswin
This is a fictionalised account of events that really happened - the time spent by the poet John Clare in an asylum, whilst the brother of Tennyson was also being treated by the... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Voirrey
Arrived before the deadline and was as good as I expected it to be. Adam Foulds describes madness, and being in debt, and having to be respectable and married so well.Published 15 months ago by John Rowles
I really enjoyed this biographical novel about the mad poet John Clare, and his doctor, the manic Matthew Allen. Read morePublished 16 months ago by William Shardlow