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Shortlisted for the 2009 Man Booker Prize

After a lifetime’s struggle with alcohol, critical neglect and depression, in 1840 the nature poet John Clare is incarcerated. The asylum, in London’s Epping Forest, is run on the reformist principles of occupational therapy. At the same time, the young Alfred Tennyson, moves nearby and became entangled in the life of the asylum. This historically accurate, intensely lyrical novel, describes the asylum’s closed world and Nature’s paradise outside the walls: Clare’s dream of home, of redemption, of escape.

Reviews

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

Intensely pleasurable to read, studded as it is with electrically acute images and phrases

Observer

Foulds wisely resists the temptation to turn Clare into an idiot savant, lunacy as the flip side of genius. The horror of a disintegrating mind is also subtly conveyed through fractured internal monologue

Financial Times

Foulds was fast becoming the pin-up boy of contemporary poets...this beautifully described second novel suggests he's equally a master of prose

Mariella Frostrup, Radio Times

A profoundly imagined historical novel, with a gripping plot and some memorably beautiful scenes

Craig Raine, Times Literary Supplement

This imaginative, atmospheric period novel has style and a host of characters

Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

It takes courage to write a novel about two of Britain's best-know poets - John Clare and Alfred Lord Tennyson - and their encounter in an Epping Forest asylum. It takes skill to turn that into an engrossing, beautiful novel. Foulds has shown both

Angel Gurria-Quintana, Financial Times

Rich in its understanding and representation of the mad, the sane, and that large overlapping category in between

Guardian, Julian Barnes

Every character, every narrative strand is stunningly written, making it an engrossing and unusual historical novel

Sunday Telegraph

The world he evokes is conjured up with remarkable intensity and economy of means

Nick Rennison, The Sunday Times

The novel is most notable for its savage descriptions of rural life

Alfred Hickling, Guardian

Foulds does a marvellous job of evoking the atmosphere of the forest. His prose has none of the awkwardness one often encounters when real-life characters are brought into play

Sunday Herald

With its unflinching look at treatments of madness, and its authentic period feel, this is an appropriately disturbing, while also beautifully written, story of human endeavour - and human failure.

The Independent on Sunday

Chosen in The New Yorker Books of the year 2010: 'An intricate homage to two nineteenth-century poets'.

New Yorker

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9780099532446

    July 1, 2010

    Vintage

    272 pages

    RRP $19.99

    Online retailers

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  • EBook

    9781409077176

    May 1, 2010

    Vintage Digital

    272 pages

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