Based on real events, The Quickening Maze won over UK critics and readers alike with its rapturous prose and vivid exploration of poetry and madness. In 1837, after years of struggling with alcoholism and depression, the great nature poet John Clare finds himself in High Beach—a mental institution located in Epping Forest on the outskirts of London. It is not long before another famed writer, the young Alfred Tennyson, moves nearby and grows entwined in the catastrophic schemes of the hospital’s owner, the peculiar Dr. Matthew Allen, his lonely adolescent daughter, and a coterie of mysterious local characters. With lyrical grace, the cloistered world of High Beach and its residents are brought richly to life in this enchanting book.
I was eager to hear this story due to my love of poetry and interest in the link between poetry and mental illness. So much of this was beautifully written and narrated, but I found it hard to follow the constantly changing point of view. I thought too many stories were told without greater effect for having included them. Overall, gorgeus but ultimately boring.