Based on real events, The Quickening Maze won over UK critics and readers alike with its rapturous prose and vivid exploration of poetry and madness. Historically accurate yet brilliantly imagined, this is the debut publication of this elegant and riveting novel in the United States.
In 1837, after years of struggling with alcoholism and depression, the great nature poet John Clare finds himself in High Beacha mental institution located in Epping Forest on the outskirts of London. It is not long before another famed writer, the young Alfred Tennyson, moves nearby and grows entwined in the catastrophic schemes of the hospitals owner, the peculiar, charismatic Dr. Matthew Allen, as well as with his lonely, adolescent daughter, and a coterie of mysterious local characters. With remarkable lyrical grace, the cloistered world of High Beach and its residents are richly brought to life in this affecting and enchanting book.
Though Adam Foulds draws from real personages - including John Clare and Alfred Tennyson before his tenure as Poet Laureate - it is not his reimagining of the Victorian past that ultimately stands out as much as the threading of multiple narratives and his tenacious characters, all of which elevate an otherwise competent historical fiction into a more complex study of misplaced desires... Foulds transforms relatively obscure material into an intelligent exploration of sanity, madness - and perhaps most unexpectedly - of the ways in which love defines and confirms each character's sense of purpose. (Reviewed by Karen Rigby).
The New Yorker, James Wood
It has been a while since I have read a book as richly sown as Adam Fould's novel The Quickening Maze... It is a remarkable work, remarkable for the precision and vitality of its perceptions and for the successful intricacy of its prose.
The Boston Globe - Alec Solomita
To be sure, there are inherent drawbacks to historical fiction. To guess at the words and thoughts of long gone people risks inaccuracy at best and disservice at worst. Foulds’s Clare is a less sophisticated version of the real poet. But the essence of the man, his sweet, courageous, fine spirit, is real enough in this deeply rewarding fiction.
The Washington Post - Ron Charles
The success of this story rests entirely on Foulds's voice, which perfectly captures Clare's mind. Listen as he describes the poet spending a night with his Gypsy friends: "He loved lying in its lap, the continuing forest, the way the roots ate the rot of leaves, and it circled on. To please himself, to decorate his path into sleep, he passed through his mind an inventory of its creatures."
There's a manneredness to the storytelling that devotees of 19th-century British literature will appreciate.
The Sunday Times (UK)
The world [Foulds] evokes ... is conjured up with remarkable intensity and economy of means. It is impossible to guess where Foulds will travel next in his fiction, but it is safe to assume that the journey with him will be well worth taking.
The Telegraph (UK)
For a slim book, The Quickening Maze is generously peopled and Foulds’ technique, of successive short, vivid scenes, creates a world entire as the characters criss-cross each other’s paths. ... But the chief pleasure of the book is its prose: Exquisite yet measured, precise, attentive to the world.
The Guardian (UK)
Impressive ...simultaneously poised and flowing in its urgency.
The Times (UK)
Exceptional ... 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.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Gabrielle Renoir-Large A Gorgeous, Shimmering Book Beginning in the late 1830s, and set over seven seasons, Adam Foulds’ Booker shortlisted novel, “The Quickening Maze” tells the intertwined stories of the “Northamptonshire poet,” John Clare, the son of a farmer; Alfred Tennyson, the man who would... Read More
John Clare The Quickening Maze is based on real events in the lives of English poets John Clare and Alfred Tennyson. Tennyson, better known as Lord Tennyson (even though he was well into his eighth decade before becoming a peer) will be familiar to most of us for a handful of his better known poems including The Charge of the Light Brigade, one of the many works written during his 42 year tenure as Poet Laureate to Queen Victoria.
But what of John Clare? Born of humble rural origins in 1793, Clare spent much of his life as a tradesman and laborer. Though he received a limited education, and did not learn a standardized grammar, he would become known as a pastoral poet and author of collections including Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery; The Village Minstrel; The Shepherd's Calendar with Village Stories and Other Poems; The Rural Muse; and...
In the midst of the American Civil War, a southern plantation owner's wife is arrested by her husband and declared insane for interfering with his slaves. She is sent to an island mental asylum to come to terms with her wrongdoing, but instead finds love and escape with a war-haunted Confederate soldier.
Vivid, mysterious, and unforgettable, The Butterfly Cabinet is Bernie McGill's engrossing portrayal of the dark history that intertwines two lives - a haunting novel full of frightening silences and sorrowful absences that build toward an unexpected, chilling truth.
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