A strange thing happened with The Quickening Maze in that the novel has seemed to get better the further away I’ve got from actually reading it.
A relatively short book, it tried to pack a great deal into it’s pages, mainly through the multiple character threads we jumped between. This reinforced a sense of confusion, perhaps echoing characters who don’t always have a firm grip on who they are. The reader is pulled in as one of the many confused souls, but after a while the charm of the maze began to lose it’s appeal. However with the safety of distance I realise I actually quite enjoyed myself!
I especially liked Fould’s emphasis on setting. The buildings and the forest were vivid and almost acted as characters in themselves, creating a strong rural gothic atmosphere throughout.
‘Even the building looked mad: plain, square and tight, with regular small barred windows that emitted shrieks.’
Dividing the novel into seasonal chapters gave a strong sense of time passing, and the actions in each chapter sat well within the intended season. The first Autumn section felt like trying to grasp at many tumbling leaves, but by Winter characters had begun to still and settle into their roles.
‘the stopped fish under their dirty window of ice.’
Whether because Foulds is a poet, or due to the historical setting of the novel at many times I almost forgot I was reading a contemporary novel. The dialogue and description felt like they genuinely reflected the 1840’s. In The Quickening Maze Foulds created a vehicle to deliver regular bursts of his poetic prose which makes this novel one of the more elegant for it’s language on this year's longlist.
‘Two crows cranked past with their slow labouring stroke when a wind caught them and swept them round like a finger turning a clock hand.’
It’s possible that The Quickening Maze needs the same attention that a poem requires and that further readings might better unravel it’s many layers. As the Booker judges will be re-reading these novels I think it’s highly likely that we might see this title on next weeks shortlist.