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The Quickening Maze
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The Quickening Maze [Format Kindle]

Adam Foulds

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Abigail started neatly at a walk as her mother had just smartened her, plucking and smoothing her dress into place. She had run a fingertip down Abigail's nose as she bent down with a crackle of her own dress and repeated the message to carry. But outside the door and with the sun warm through the trees and the path firm under her tightly laced boots, Abigail couldn't help it: after a few paces she broke into a run.

She ran across the garden and over into the grounds of Fairmead House, then along its side and past the pond where Simon the idiot was throwing stones; even she knew he'd been told not to do that. He looked round sharply at the sound of her footsteps just after he'd launched one. It couldn't be stopped: their eyes met at the moment it plopped in and slow circles widened across the green water. It was only the child, though. He smiled naughtily at her, knowing she wouldn't tell. She ran round the corner past Mr Stockdale the attendant whom she did not like. He was large and strict and when he tried to play with her it was not meant, not meant properly, and his hands were heavy. But there was Margaret sitting on a stool, sewing. She liked Margaret, her thin, sharp chinned face like a wooden toy, and wide, clear, kind eyes. She was a peaceful lady, mostly, and now Abigail walked over and leaned against her knees to be for a moment inside that calm. Margaret didn't say anything, stroked once the back of Abigail's head as the child looked down at her sampler. There were three colours of thread: green for hills, brown for the cross and black for lines coming out of the cross. Abigail put out a finger and felt the bumpy black stitches. "God's love," Margaret whispered. "Beams." Briefly she wound the thread she was working with a couple of times around Abigail's finger. "Wrap you up in it."

Abigail smiled. "Good day," she said and set off running again, past some others strolling there, and then when she saw him, with greater speed towards her father.

Matthew Allen swung the axe down onto the upturned log. The blade sunk down into it, but it didn't split, so he raised the axe and log together and brought them down hard. The log flew apart into two even pieces that rocked on the grass. "Nothing to it," he remarked. He stooped and added the new pieces with their clean white pith to the barrow and stood another log on the stump.

Seeing Abigail bouncing towards him, he handed the lunatic the axe and grappled her up into his arms. "Just go on like that until you've filled the barrow, please." Abigail could feel the warmth of his body through its compress of clothes. She wriggled at the sensation of his humid whiskers against her as he kissed her cheek.

"Mother says to come now because they'll be here pleasantly."

Allen smiled. "Did she say "pleasantly" or "presently"?"

Abigail frowned. "Presently," she said.

"Then we'd better set off."

Abigail leaned her head into his neck, into the smell of him in his cravat, and felt her feet swinging in the air with each of his steps, like riding a pony.

Patients greeted her father with a nod as he passed or with some rearrangement of their posture. Simon the idiot, who definitely was not throwing stones into the pond, waved with his whole arm.

Outside the house Hannah stood waiting, holding her sharp elbows and thoughtfully drawing a line on the path in front of her with the toe of her boot. She looked up at them as they arrived and spoke as if to justify herself.

"I thought I ought to wait to greet them, given that there was no one else."

Allen laughed. "I'm sure even a poet is capable of pulling a door bell." He watched his daughter ignore the comment, staring at the ground. Abigail was twisting in his arms now the ride was over, and he set her down. She ran off a few yards to pick up an interesting stick. The front door opened and Mrs. Allen walked out to join them. "Fine weather," she commented.

"Are we not too many now?" Hannah asked. "The brother may be a little overwhelmed."

"They both might be," her father rejoined. "But a warm family welcome will do neither of them any harm."

"I'll only wait with you a moment," Eliza Allen said. "I've things to do, only I saw you all standing out here in the sun. Oh, look, there's Dora seeing us now."

Hannah turned and saw her sister's face in the window. She wouldn't come out, Hannah knew. She didn"t like extraordinary people. She liked ordinary people and was preparing for her wedding, after which she could live almost entirely among them. She retreated out of sight like a fish from the surface of a pond, leaving the glass dark.

"Abi, put that down," her mother instructed. "And don't wipe your hands on your pinafore. Come here." Abigail joined them in a mildly shamed, dilatory way and allowed her mother to clean her palms with a handkerchief. "Where's Fulton?" Eliza asked her husband.

"He's occupied, I'm sure. We don't have to be all arranged here like this. We're not having our portrait painted."

This was not how Hannah had arranged this meeting in her imagination. She would not have had the clutter of her family around her, not at first, and she would have happened by at the right moment, or at least could have easily dissembled her preceding vigilance. She could have been a solitary, attractive girl of seventeen, a wood nymph even, discovered in her wandering. She stared along the road as far as she could: it turned sharply to the right a little way ahead and the forest cut off the view down the hill. Through the trees she felt them approaching, an event approaching. Who knew how significant it might prove to be? She should try to expect less; there was little chance it would match her hopes. But it might. Certainly, something was about to happen. People were about to arrive.


And then it was happening. The carriage from Woodford was approaching, trunks strapped to its roof, the horses bowing their way up the hill, the driver dabbing at their broad backs with his whip. Quickly, hoping not to be seen, Hannah pinched colour into her cheeks. Mrs. Allen picked up Abigail and held her on her hip. Matthew Allen smoothed his whiskers with both hands, tugged his waistcoat down, and enriched the swell of his cravat.

As the carriage slowed beside them, the driver touching the brim of his hat, Matthew Allen stepped forward and opened the door. "Misters Tennyson," he said in his deeper, professional voice. "Welcome to High Beach."

A cough and a thank you was heard from the shadowy interior where long limbs were moving.

Hannah stood a little closer to her mother as the two brothers emerged.

The two Tennysons were tall, clean-shaven and darkly similar. They greeted the three females with courteous bows. Hannah felt close to saying something, but didn't. She heard her mother say, "Gentlemen, welcome." One Tennyson mumbled a reply as they both stood blinking, shifting on their feet after the confinement of the carriage. Both began lighting pipes.

The trunks were unfastened and brought down by Dr Allen and one of the Tennysons. Both the Tennysons were handsome, one perhaps more sensitive in appearance than the other—would that be the poet or the melancholic? Hannah waited for them to speak some more. She wanted desperately to know which of these two men her interest should fall upon.

Revue de presse

"A seamless blend of historical fact and fiction...Foulds's writing has a poetic intensity and his descriptions of the autumnal woods around the asylum are as piercingly keen as his insight into the minds of the patients, the doctor and his family" (Daily Mail)

"Adam Foulds won the 2008 Costa Poetry Award, and he is a skilful poet. These talents are well displayed in his prose which, while lyrical, never grows fussy or highfalutin.' He draws a walk-on character with a few deft strokes" (Lionel Shriver Telegraph)

"A work of strikingly beautiful, unforced writing" (Daily Express)

"The chief pleasure of the book is its prose: exquisite yet measured, precise, attentive to the world" (Sunday Telegraph)

"Fould's exceptional novel is like a lucid dream: earthy and true, but shifting, metamorphic - the word-perfect fruit of a poet's sharp eye and noevlist's limber reach" (The Times)

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 297 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 272 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 0143117793
  • Editeur : Vintage Digital (7 mai 2009)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B0031RS3US
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 3.6 étoiles sur 5  43 commentaires
40 internautes sur 41 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Poets and Poetry. 12 octobre 2009
Par Jan Dierckx - Publié sur
"One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" by Ken Kesey and "The Quickening Maze" by Adam Foulds are the two most captivating novels I ever read about mental patients and the persons who look after them.

Foulds uses a poetical language and by poetry he tries to understand the intricate and illogical thoughts of some of the patients. He often describes nature also and uses that as a counterpart for the asylum. The infinite forest encloses the village and the asylum so that the asylum becomes a world on its own. An attempt to free one self as an individual is made impossible by the impenetrability of the forest. This symbolizes the inability of some patients ( one of the most important is the nature poet John Clare ) to understand their personal destiny. It's not that they don't see a goal in life, they just don't know how to reach it.

In the first half of the novel you get bits and pieces of several stories, each of them standing on its own with no connection with the other parts of the novel. It's almost as the language of a schizophrenic who takes pieces of several thoughts and brings them together to form a mangled and incomprehensible language. But as the novel continues everything begins to fall into place to form a story-line and a question: where is the borderline between the sane and the insane?

Based on real events in Epping Forest on the edge of London around 1840, 'The Quickening Maze' centers on the first incarceration of the great nature poet John Clare. After years struggling with alcohol, critical neglect and depression, Clare finds himself in High Beach Private Asylum - an institution run on reformist principles which would later become known as occupational therapy. At the same time another poet, the young Alfred Tennyson, moves nearby and becomes entangled in the life and catastrophic schemes of the asylum's owner, the peculiar, charismatic Dr. Matthew Allen.
18 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Victims and Survivors of Poetry 21 juin 2010
Par Susan K. Schoonover - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
THE QUICKENING MAZE is not a lengthy book in words but is by no means a quick or easy read. Prior to receiving this book I had only the barest idea who 19th century British poets John Clare and Alfred, Lord Tennyson were. I am glad I did a little research around the basic facts of their lives before starting this novel since I'm afraid I might have found much of the text incomprehensible if I hadn't reviewed their life stories.

The book is set at a mental institution in Epping Forest near London. The asylum, High Beach, actually existed as did its director and founder Matthew Allen. Poet John Clare lived there under Allen's care for several years while he suffered from various delusions and manias. Alfred, Lord Tennyson lived nearby and though he was never an inmate of High Beach his brother Septimus who suffered from "melancholy" was. Apparently Tennyson was well acquainted with Dr. Allen as the doctor convinced Tennyson and other members of his family to invest in a money making enterprise that failed causing financial hardships for Tennyson in the years before he became famous as a poet. Various other inmates, asylum employees, gypsies and family members of the major characters make up the rest of the rather crowded cast of THE QUICKENING MAZE.

Author Foulds has talent at a writer and in a less skilled author's hands this difficult book would have been unreadable. At times the book's writing seems quite pretentious and at other points the reader is jarred by some very earthy descriptions of bodily functions. Those with an interest in Victorian British poets with "quirks" will likely admire THE QUICKENING MAZE but the book is not accessible or engaging enough for the casual reader to readily enjoy.
12 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet . . . 26 mai 2010
Par Roger Brunyate - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
". . . are of imagination all compact," continues Shakespeare, and Adam Foulds might well have taken this for the motto of this novel. The setting is High Beach, a mental asylum run by Dr. Matthew Allen, on the fringes of Epping Forest, East of London. The time is the late eighteen-thirties. The poets are John Clare, a laborer's son briefly celebrated for his rural verse, and Alfred Tennyson, near the beginning of his own career. All three were real figures. Clare was to be institutionalized for the rest of his life, and largely forgotten only to be rediscovered a century later. Tennyson, himself a melancholic, bought a property nearby to be close to his brother Septimus, who committed himself to the asylum. And Allen was an extraordinary figure: "chemical philosopher, phrenologist, pedagogue, and mad-doctor," in the words of his biographer; add to that inventor, entrepreneur, and bankrupt. Adam Foulds has woven these factual strands into a tapestry of the imagination, set equally in the minds of its many characters and the revolving seasons of the English countryside.

The human world of High Beach is an often confusing jumble of inmates, attendants, visitors, members of Allen's family including his lovesick daughter Hannah, together with other assorted children, neighbors, and visitors. It is difficult to keep straight, and made more difficult still when an inmate suddenly starts calling himself by a different name. But although Allen has some sadistic attendants under his unwitting command, he is an enlightened doctor who allows his patients much liberty -- so the world of nature interpenetrates everything. Foulds is at his best when closest to the countryside, as when John Clare wanders far from home as a boy in the prologue, or his several unauthorized excursions from High Beach to visit a nearby gypsy encampment. Or when one of the inmates, Margaret, has a religious vision in the woods: "The wind separated into thumps, into wing beats. An angel. An angel there in front of her. Tears fell like petals from her face. It stopped in front of her. Settling, its wings made a chittering sound. [...] It reached out with its beautiful hands to steady itself in the mortal world, touching leaves, touching branches, and left stains of brightness where it touched."

Like Maggie O'Farrell did in THE VANISHING ACT OF ESME LENNOX and Faulkner knew before her, Foulds has discovered that the voices of madness permit a less literal approach to storytelling, in which desire and memory can play on an equal footing with fact. At its best, it is a highly evocative approach. But I am not convinced that he uses it to evoke anything very important -- not, for instance, as Pat Barker had done in REGENERATION when she placed the poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen in a mental hospital against the background of the Flanders trenches. Nor is there anything quite so compelling as Clare's own lines written from captivity: "And yet I am! and live with shadows, tost | Into the nothingness of scorn and noise, | Into the living sea of waking dreams, | Where there is neither sense of life nor joys, | But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems." Foulds can paint the seascape of those waking dreams, but he cannot experience the shipwreck.

But how does one really take a sane reader into the world of madness? Part of Foulds' strategy is to erase the boundaries berween sane and insane. Shakespeare would suggest that there is not much difference between the lunatic and the poet, and with the very soft borders separating the various categories in Dr. Allen's establishment (not to mention the crazy enthusiasms of Allen himself), the two do seem to merge. But an empathetic portrayal of individual torment is really only possible when balancing on the brink, but still retaining some contact with sanity. Foulds' description of John Clare losing himself in the countryside as a boy already has the seeds of all that will become of him, both good and ill. Margaret's vision of the angel is about as far as Foulds could go and still have the reader see through her eyes. But when Clare (as he did) declares himself to be Byron or Shakespeare, the reader can only shake his head and pull back. If this novel lacks focus, as I fear it does, it may simply be because its target is beyond the reach of any lens.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Road Less Traveled 27 mai 2010
Par Jill I. Shtulman - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
Somewhere toward the end of this inventive and imaginative novel, peasant nature poet John Clare muses about "the maze of a life with no way out, paths taken, places been."

In reality -- and much of this book IS based on reality -- each of the characters within these pages will enter into a maze -- figuratively, through the twists and turns of diseased minds, and literally, through the winding paths of the nearby forest. Some will escape unscathed and others will never emerge. But all will be altered.

At the start of the novel, John Clare has been incarcerated in a progressive (for the times) institution called the High Beach Private Asylum. It doesn't take long for the reader to come to the understanding that this seemingly sane poet is not unjustly imprisoned, but is in fact, stark raving mad. Shortly thereafter, John Clare is joined by Septimus Tennyson, the mad brother of the famous Alfred Lord Tennyson, who also takes up residence.

The owner of the asylum -- Matthew Allen -- displays fairness to the inhabitants, yet he has demons of his own. He has escaped a dodgy past as a debtor and has lost the respect of his parsimonious older brother. One of his older daughters, Hannah, is just coming of age and has developed an unrequited crush on Tennyson. Other characters, such as the brutal right-hand man Stockdale and the delusional and fervent Margaret-turned-Mary, drift in and out of the narrative.

Quickening Maze slips slightly when it delves into a subplot about a doomed mass-produce decorative woodcarvings invention, in my opinion. It helps to know that in reality, this happened, and Tennyson lost most of his inherited fortune as a result. After reading Quickening Maze, it is nearly impossible to not go running to check out what parts of this book are based on truths. Yet it does not slip enough for me to deprive the novel of its fifth rating star.

Without spoilers and with a nod to the poet Robert Frost (who is NOT mentioned in this book), John Clare will try on various personage from the past, including Lord Byron and Shakespeare himself; his mind will travel "to where it bent in the undergrowth." Hannah will need to lose her path to find the one that has "perhaps the better claim". Matthew Allen will slip on his path and go back down one that he has already precariously traveled before, forgetting "how way leads on to way". And the famous Tennyson? He, too, will forge forward on the path that bcomes his destiny and he will be remembered "aged and ages hence". As Hannah states, "To love the life that was possible: that also was a freedom, perhaps the only freedom."
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Incredibly rich, multi-layered and poetic novel 26 août 2010
Par Bluestalking Reader - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
I knew John Clare's name, but nothing at all about him before reading this novel. Tennyson I of course knew, since my M.A. is in English literature. But I had no idea the great poet's brother had been in an insane asylum, nor his relation to poet John Clare.

Of course, this is a novel, so liberties are taken. I can't assume what's historic fact and what's embellishment, but the book blends so seamlessly I had no idea what was true and what fictionalized.

It's just such lovely prose, so beautifully written. I normally pick apart every book I read; that's just the editor in me. But with this novel I'd have to really stretch to say anything about it is sub-par. If I'm really picky I could say the "romance" between Hannah and Tennyson was a bit awkward. Not just the literal age difference and what not, but something about it just didn't quite ring true to me. Hard to put my finger on exactly what, but there you have it.

I was pre-disposed to liking this novel. There's the English degree, and the fact I love, ADORE books written from the perspective of the mad. And we won't go into analysis on that, now, will we...

A good read, though. I'd recommend it.
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