BBC Radio 4

Society & Culture

Led by James Naughtie, a group of readers talk to acclaimed authors about their best-known novels


Adam Foulds - The Quickening Maze

April 5th, 2015

Episode 408 of 438 episodes

Adam Foulds discusses his Man Booker shortlisted novel The Quickening Maze with James Naughtie and a group of readers. Set in the 1840s, The Quickening Maze tells the story of the poet John Clare, and his incarceration at High Beach Asylum in London's Epping Forest. Run by the charismatic and reformist Dr Matthew Allen, its principles include occupational and talking therapies. Based on real life events, amongst the patients is Septimus Tennyson, brother to the young poet Alfred Tennyson. The Tennysons suffered from the English affliction : depression, and Alfred moves to be near his brother, and enjoy the peace of the forest. In the programme Foulds describes how his discovery of Tennyson and Clare being at the asylum at the same time inspired the novel, and how the closed world of the asylum is a gift for a novelist. He grew up on the edges of the forest himself and spent his teenage years birdwatching there, before he discovered a love of poetry. This intensely lyrical novel draws on John Clare's love of nature, how the Enclosure laws of the time contributed to his alienation and the deterioration of his mental health after a lifetime's struggle with alcohol and critical neglect. Foulds shows us Nature's paradise outside the walls, and Clare's dreams of home, of redemption and escape. May's Bookclub choice : In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar. Presenter : James Naughtie Interviewed guest : Adam Foulds Producer : Dymphna Flynn.

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