The Quickening Maze - Adam Foulds

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The Quickening Maze - Adam Foulds

Post by Graham on Sat Feb 24, 2018 10:31 pm

Words 352

I found this on the stack of second hand books at the Stockbridge Centre. Most of them were romances or popular novels. This was the only one Booker shortlisted. I had high hopes, so I put my pound in the tin.

In the countryside of Victorian England Matthew Allan manages the patients in his lunatic asylum alongside his wife and three daughters. The  middle daughter has formed an attraction for Alfred Tennyson, a young poet newly taken up residence to be near his brother Septimus, one of Allan’s patients. By page 77 nothing had happened, and I was becoming tired of Fould’s style. It’s very poetic, dwelling on insignificant details to the point of distraction that is if there were anything to be distracted from. Aside from the love interest there is no driving plot just a series of vignettes involving the family and the inmates. Another inmate, the people’s poet John Clare, escapes for a day and enjoys roast hedgehog and some bare-knuckle fighting with gypsies; Matthew ties his hopes for prosperity on a new machine to carve wood, made, unfortunately, of wood; mad Margaret follows the dictates of God and his angels; daughter Hannah has tea with Alfred.

Had I had anything else to read the following morning I would have binned it. It’s now day three and I am two thirds of the way through its 259 pages. Today I bought three new novels in the Red Cross charity shop but I’m going to finish Foulds out of sheer perversity.

Foulds is a prize-winning poet and among his other published work is a book-length narrative poem, the Broken Word. Bear in mind I am not a reader of poetry and I have bad memories of being made to read Cider with Rosie in my school days. It had the same super-abundance of metaphoric detail that seems to impress judges and it may be that you too would enjoy this. Foulds might yet pull a rabbit out of the hat and delight me by pulling all the strands together. I’ll let you know.

Otherwise, well it was only a pound.

Graham
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