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.