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About the book
  • Published: 1 July 2010
  • ISBN: 9780099532446
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $19.99

The Quickening Maze

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.

  • Pub date: 1 July 2010
  • ISBN: 9780099532446
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $19.99

About the Author

Adam Foulds

Adam Foulds's most recent books are In the Wolf’s Mouth, The Quickening Maze, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Encore Award and the European Union Prize for Literature, and The Broken Word, which won the Costa Poetry Award and the Somerset Maugham Award. He has recently been awarded the E.M. Forster Award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters and named as one of Granta’s ‘Best of Young British Novelists’.

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Praise for The Quickening Maze

“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”


“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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