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The Quickening Maze
by Adam Foulds | Literature & Fiction
Registered by star-light of Melbourne, Victoria Australia on Saturday, October 03, 2009
Average 6 star rating by BookCrossing Members 

status (set by markmcg): to be read

9 journalers for this copy...

Journal Entry 1 by star-light from Melbourne, Victoria Australia on Saturday, October 03, 2009

This book has not been rated.

This is my contribution to the 2009 Man Booker Challenge.

From the Man Booker website:

The Quickening Maze is based on real events and is set in and around the High Beach Asylum in 1840. The asylum, built within Epping Forest, is a place of disorder and unpredictable dramas.

Foulds’ compelling tale centres on the life of the great nature poet John Clare. After years struggling with alcohol, critical neglect and depression, Clare finds himself in High Beach Asylum. 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.

Historically accurate, but brilliantly imagined, the closed world of High Beach and its various inmates - the doctor, his lonely daughter in love with Tennyson, the brutish staff and John Clare himself - are brought vividly to life. Foulds also exquisitely depicts life outside the walls; Nature and Clare’s paradise -the birds and animals, the gypsies living in the forest; his dream of home, of redemption, of escape.

The Quickening Maze is a deeply affecting book and work of intense and atmospheric imagination.

Journal Entry 2 by star-light from Melbourne, Victoria Australia on Tuesday, December 01, 2009

This book has not been rated.

I'm not fussed about the order, as long it's clear in the journal entry who has the book. I'll update the list as we go to show who has/has not read the book.

Fleebo (finished)
jubby (finished)
goodthinkingmax (finished)

Other participants are welcome (Australia only). Please PM me if you wish to join. 

Journal Entry 3 by star-light from Melbourne, Victoria Australia on Tuesday, December 01, 2009

6 out of 10

Sigh...a novel set in an asylum was never going to be happy.

Based on the blurb I was expecting this book to be about poets John Clare and Alfred Tennyson. I was looking forward to finding out more about them, and was disappointed to find they weren’t the main characters in the story after all.

This book had a lot of different characters and jumped around from one to the other, and nothing seemed to be happening. For most of the book I couldn’t work out what it was supposed to be about and so wasn’t engaged when reading it. Then about two-thirds of the way in I suddenly ‘got’ it. Now that I’ve finished the book I think it was interesting to read about the different characters and their distorted ideas of reality, how losing a grip on reality could happen to both the asylum patients and the ‘sane’ people, and their attempts to escape their situations.

But it took me too long to reach that light bulb moment and all in all it was too much of a struggle to get through this book. Not the best start to my 2009 Booker reading!

Journal Entry 4 by star-light from Melbourne, Victoria Australia on Wednesday, December 02, 2009

This book has not been rated.

On the way to Fleebo. 

Journal Entry 5 by Fleebo from Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Monday, December 07, 2009

This book has not been rated.

Received safely in the mail. Thank you! 

Journal Entry 6 by Fleebo from Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Friday, January 01, 2010

7 out of 10

This book was a lot better than I was expecting from the subject matter. I had never heard of John Clare, and I don't really know Tennyson's work either, but I loved the way Clare saw things in such intricate detail, at least in the first half of the story.
Of course given the true history involved, things do not turn out for the best, but it makes a surprisingly good read. Thank you! 

Journal Entry 7 by jubby from Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Monday, January 11, 2010

This book has not been rated.

Received in the post today - thank you Fleebo.

And Star-light, your handwriting on the bookcrossing plate is beautiful - no squinting or guessing what the numerals might be with you!

Adding to the tbr pile that should keep moving with it being the holidays... 

Journal Entry 8 by jubby at Bookring, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases on Thursday, April 08, 2010

This book has not been rated.

Released 5 yrs ago (4/6/2010 UTC) at Bookring, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases



Greetings Starlight!

I read this book in Jan/Feb, and really enjoyed it.
It actually reminded me of a Booker Bookring (The girl in the blue dress by Gaynor Arnold) book that I had read a couple of months earlier. Both books are fictitious accounts of actual Victorian authors (John Clare, Tennyson and Charles Dickens).

The comparisons end there.
'The girl in the blue dress' was terrible. An incredible and fascinating historical character, whom I felt I came to know virtually nothing new about from reading this book. No new insights or understanding of the real characters.
But, 'The Quickening Maze' did not suffer the same problem.

Why write such an account if you were not seeking to garner understanding of the inner workings of a real person?
I can merely google and find out the historical account of the given personality. What I seek to find in fiction is an insight to these characters and their place in their environment.

This is exactly what I felt when reading about John Clare. Here is a poet whom I'd not really heard of before, while Tennyson has gone done favourably on the historical record.

It was intriguing to consider their motivations, passions and inner workings. I loved it!
This was a fascinating read and one that I felt satisfied for reading when closing for the last time.

Not the sort of book I would normally pick up, but I thank Starlight for sharing this book with me.

I have since passed it on to Goodthinkingmax over lunch, and I hope that she enjoys it as much as I did. 

Journal Entry 9 by goodthinkingmax from Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This book has not been rated.

Received from jubby last week and I began reading it today. A chapter or so in and I am still a bit confused about the characters. Random sentences though have really struck me:

"He walked quite out of his knowledge.."
"His face was so detailed, so full of character, that John always found encountering him to be a small event, like eating something."
"She watched Annabella's dark eyes lift from the page and meet her own, then realised their gazes hadn't quite met: Annabella stared impersonally at some portion of Hannah's face"

I'm optimistic that even if I'm not taken by the plot and characters, the writing and observations will continue to sustain and interest me as I read. 

Journal Entry 10 by goodthinkingmax at Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Tuesday, July 13, 2010

7 out of 10

My initial reaction to this book stuck. I was happy to lose myself in the lovely words and gorgeous writing but the plot and characters lost me. I wish I could have responded like Jubby and enjoyed the insights into the historical characters. Perhaps I should stick to non fiction historical books.

I've been very slack holding on so long to this fairly short book but am passing it along to Miss-Jo via Fleebo at the Sydney Bookcrossers' catchup tonight. 

Journal Entry 11 by miss-jo at Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Tuesday, December 14, 2010

3 out of 10

I'm so sorry that it's taken me so long to give up! After sporadic attempts to read this over months I'm up to page 124 and I'm admitting defeat. I can't even write a witty review, as I don't remember anything noteworthy. It was just unappealing to me.

Thank you for sharing star-light, and I apologise again for hanging on to it for so long.

Frustratingly, I saw tqd tonight but didn't have it with me. I might pm her and see if we can work something out, otherwise I'll pm sujie.

Eta that I'm posting it to Sujie today (18/12) 

Journal Entry 12 by wingAnonymousFinderwing at Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales Australia on Monday, December 20, 2010

This book has not been rated.

Received today, thanks, miss-jo. The dust jacket is enough to tempt me (!) but I probably won't get to it till after Christmas. 

Journal Entry 13 by geileis at Goulburn, New South Wales Australia on Monday, January 31, 2011

This book has not been rated.

This is Sujie. Just realised my daughter Geileis has been on my computer....I wish she'd log out!
Like goodthinkingmax, the writing style sustained me, albeit slowly as I read other books inbetween. I found that I had no depth of feeling for any of the characters...I think Adam Foulds has a really good grasp of that repulsiveness particular to the Victorian period, and each character, sane or insane, was tainted with it. The quiet, dreadful submission of women to marriage at any cost was realised really well.
Although at times I felt like crying out "Get on with it, man!" this book will resonate for a long time. The sense of place and of the English winter were painterly. In the past few years quite a few writers I've read have dealt with Victorian period insane asylums - Sarah Waters, Margaret Atwood, and Simon Winchester off the top of my head - and Foulds will join that canon. I'm not sure it's one in which I wish to be overly expert!
Thanks for making it available, star-light.
PS Does anyone know the name of the tree with the fabulous radiating roots on the cover? I can see a beech next to it it a fir? 

Journal Entry 14 by tqd at Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Tuesday, February 08, 2011

This book has not been rated.

Turned up in the mail today, thanks sujie! 

Journal Entry 15 by markmcg at Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Tuesday, July 14, 2015

This book has not been rated.

Picked up at the Sydney Meetup, Crown Hotel. It will be a little while before I get to it. 

Journal Entry 16 by markmcg at Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Saturday, November 21, 2015

7 out of 10

The writing was great but the story didn't really do it for me. It felt a little like a spiral into disaster. I was most frustrated by Dr Matthew Allen's behaviour. Having said that, the book made an impression and will certainly be one that I remember. I'll release it soon at a Sydney Meetup. 

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