The Quickening Maze, by Adam Foulds

-makes face- -makes another face- -twitches-

I think we’re going to have to file this one under Novels I Don’t Understand, Not One Bit. My impetus for starting this book was the A to Z Challenge, but then the prologue was just so darn good and I thought, hey, this could be awesome. And then it was confusing and odd and more confusing, but those first three pages! Good! And so I continued on, hoping that maybe the book would start to make any sort of sense and it didn’t and it was never as good as the beginning. -pout-

I can’t even give you a summary of what this book is meant to be about. There’s this guy, right, and he has an asylum, and people… live there? And they go about their lives? And they tend to be crazy? And then this guy what runs the asylum, he has a Plan for going into business, and he gets people to invest, and then it fails. I think. It’s going to fail, anyway.

And one of the investors is Alfred Tennyson, whose brother is a patient at the asylum, and another patient is John Clare, who I didn’t know was a poet but apparently he was pretty okay, so maybe this book is about poetry, right? And then that makes a lot of sense, because I don’t understand poetry, either, usually. There are a couple of poems in the novel. Maybe that’s something.

What really bothers me is that part of the Thing of this novel is that it’s based on actual things that happened to Tennyson and Clare, but… you know… I feel like there are other, more interesting, things that one could write about the lives of poets. Is that it? Is this book about how even poets live crappy lives and get swindled? But I already knew that. Maybe the whole book is just an asylum fever-dream. I could get behind that.

I will offer again that the first three pages are beautifully written, and in fact much of the novel is made up of pretty words that make pretty sentences and paragraphs and whatnot. But I can’t survive on pretty alone.

Recommendation: I recommend this novel only for perhaps historians who are very well versed in the histories of Tennyson and Clare, or maybe also for people who have been told the secret of what this book is about. If you’re one of those people, could you share?

Rating: 5/10
(A to Z Challenge, Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:
[your link here]

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

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