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Literary star Adam Foulds to read from latest novel on campus

Posted on 07/05/2013

Adam Foulds

Fresh from being named one of Britain's best young writers, Adam Foulds will visit Royal Holloway on Thursday 9 May to read from his novel, The Quickening Maze.

Adam was named last month in Granta magazine’s list of Britain's 20 best young novelists, alongside Ben Markovits, a Senior Lecturer in Royal Holloway’s Department of English, and alumni Tahmima Anam and Jenni Fagan.

Those attending the Lunchtime Reading event will be transported into the world of Victorian mental asylums, which provide the setting for The Quickening Maze, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2009. It is based on the true story of the nature poet John Clare, who was incarcerated in the High Beach Asylum in 1840, suffering from severe depression and alcoholism.

Situated in London’s Epping Forest, the private institution was seen as progressive, where wealthy patients received early forms of treatment such as talking cures and occupational therapy. However, as Royal Holloway historian Dr Jane Hamlett describes, the often closed and unpredictable world meant that many like John Clare were desperate to escape.

“During the first half of the nineteenth century, the treatment of mental illness was very much in its infancy”, said Dr Hamlett, who has carried out research into Victorian asylums. “It was still quite common for patients to be kept under restraint, which might mean that they would be forcibly tied down if considered violent or dangerous.

“Although asylums were starting to be better run and more helpful to patients in this era, they could still be a frightening place for a patient who, already suffering from mental illness, might feel threatened by the new environment he or she was brought into.” 

As described in the book, John Clare was a patient at the institution at the same time as the brother of the poet Alfred Tennyson, who also becomes entangled in the life of the asylum.

Adam will read from The Quickening Maze at 1pm on Thursday 9 May, in the Students' Union Main Hall. This will be followed by a Q&A and a chance to buy the book and get a signed copy. The event is open to all students, staff and members of the public and is free to attend.

More information about the series is available here.


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