Monday, 18 November 2013

The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds (2/5)

First published: 2009
Page count: 259

The back says: Epping Forest, 1840. Struggling with alcohol, critical neglect and his powerful imagination, the poet John Clare is incarcerated in High Beach Asylum. At the same time, the young Alfred Tennyson moves nearby and becomes entangled in the ill-fated schemes of the charismatic asylum owner, Dr Matthew Allen. Beyond the walls lies nature, Claire’s paradise. For him, a locked door is a kind of death and Clare longs for home, redemption and escape. Based on real events, brilliantly re-imagined, the closed world of High Beach and Clare’s vertiginous fall into madness are brought vividly to life.

I say: I can’t remember where I first heard of this novel, but at the time I felt compelled to buy it. It seemed perfect for me, a poet locked in an asylum – what could be better than that.

It turns out, a lot of things could be better than that.

I struggled the entire way through because of the boring prose, which was strange since it occasionally was rather beautiful. However, for some reason I never got into the flow of things.

I’d never heard of John Clare prior to reading this – and I have little interest in him having read this – and so I cannot comment on how accurately he is portrayed. What I can comment on is how I perceived him; boring and unconvincing.

Much like all the characters in this novel.

I still don’t know what Foulds was trying to say, other than the entire novel felt like walking around in a maze and just desperately wanting to find a way out.