Book review – The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds

The Quickening Maze coverReview by Emma Bragg

Adam Foulds’ novel The Quickening Maze was a surprise amongst the shortlist of 2009’s Man Booker Prize. The book revolves around real events in Epping Forest in 1840, which Foulds has managed to combine cleverly with his own imaginings.

Described as a ‘lyrical novel’, the story centres on the poet John Clare who is coming to the end of his career with his poetry now considered not to be ‘in fashion’. As an inpatient at High Beach Private Asylum we see Clare alongside other patients early in the book, such as the religiously fanatic Margaret, and in these surroundings Clare appears comparatively sane.

The Asylum owner is Dr Matthew Allen, another factual character who, with his sermons and asylum-revolved lifestyle, appears dedicated to his patients. It is also apparent that he is able to develop a trusting bond with his patients and he encourages Clare to continue pursuit of his poetry career. Continue reading