The Quickening Maze, By Adam Foulds

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The Independent Culture

Adam Foulds's second novel is a reimagining of the latter years of the poet John Clare. In 1840 Clare has just been incarcarated in High Beach Asylum in Epping Forest. At the same time, a young Alfred Tennyson moves near the asylum where his brother is being treated for melancholy.

The yet to be lauded poet, soon becomes entangled in the ill-fated money-making schemes of the asylum owner, Dr Matthew Allen.

Foulds's depiction of insanity and its more febrile expressions is alamingly convincing – Clare's deterioration inevitably hastened by his separation from the rural haunts and forests that inspired him.

As a poet himself, Foulds distinctive prose initially catches the reader off-balance, casting this quasi-historical novel in a shadowy half-light of its own.