The Quickening Maze

Adam Foulds, Penguin, $15 paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-14-311779-7
Foulds's erudite, Booker-shortlisted debut follows three men—Dr. Matthew Allen, mad peasant poet John Clare, and prodigious pipe-smoking poet Alfred Tennyson—as their fates intertwine at the High Beach mental institution outside of 1837 London. Worried over the cost of the wedding for his eldest daughter, Matthew invents a machine to mass-produce filigreed wood furniture. Ignoring the asylum for his business pursuits, Matthew seeks investors, including the Tennyson family, of whom Alfred's brother, Septimus, is a patient at High Beach. John, meanwhile, spirals into a fantasy world fueled by his obsession with a dead childhood sweetheart, Mary. Things become complicated when John deludes himself into thinking a fellow patient is his dead love. All the while, Alfred, who is at the asylum to be near his brother, is fruitlessly pursued by Matthew's adolescent daughter, Hannah. While Alfred, unfortunately, is the least convincing character, John's madness is richly imagined, and Matthew comes off as powerfully sympathetic as he grows ever more desperate to raise funds for his business gamble. There's a manneredness to the storytelling that devotees of 19th-century British literature will appreciate. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/17/2010
Release date: 06/01/2010
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-307-39911-3
Hardcover - 258 pages - 978-0-224-08746-9
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-307-39910-6
Paperback - 258 pages - 978-0-09-953244-6
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4561-3089-3
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-1-4090-7717-6
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