Saturday, 16 October 2010

The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds

Adam Foulds novel `The Quickening Maze' is a novel loosely based on factual events which took place at High Beach Private Asylum in Epping Forest where the poet John Clare was incarcerated during the 1840s.

The novel gives the reader brief encounters with a large array of characters such as John Clare, the owner Dr Allen and members of his family, other patients and Alfred Tennyson. The writing could be described as sparse but unfortunately due to the mass of different characters combined with the novels short size meant that sometimes the narrative was very confusing in places and I never really felt as though the main issues were fully explored.

On reflection though there is a lot to like about it. The narrative is beautiful and creates an atmosphere of dreamy silence and has an almost Gothic feel to it. The contrast between the Asylum and the quiet surrounding forest where Gypsies make their home is wonderfully done as are the delusions of John Clare who thinks he is married to his first love and Hannah, the Dr's daughter who is embarking on her first love.

The novel does pick up momentum towards the end and I did begin to get submerged in the ‘maze’ of the different narratives and the general atmosphere that the book inspired.

Would I recommend this? Although this novel does have its problems I am glad I read it and can understand why it was short-listed for the booker prize in 2009. I would recommend this more for people who enjoy a more quiet pace of novel with beautiful prose.

Verdict 31/2 / 5

Posted by Jess


  1. Sounds like a very nice fall read...I can imagine curling up with it and a cup of cocoa.

  2. I agree with Zara that it sounds like a fall read. I think I'd like to give this one a try.

  3. Thanks for this review! I've been interested in this book, but hadn't read any blogger reviews. :)

  4. Zara - might be a bit heavy going for that I'm afraid, its the kinnda book where you do have to concentrate ;)

    irisonbooks - certainly a fall book though!

    Amy - farmlanebooks and Savagereads have reviews (but not as favorable as mine)

  5. I am also inclined to pick up a book where the setting is an asylum... Just a reading quirk.