The Quickening Maze, Adam Foulds (2009)

There’s not a whole lot to this novel–it’s short, and feels even shorter–but what’s here is admirably written and often delightful. In 1837, the rural poet John Clare–once celebrated, now forgotten by the literary powers that be–ends up in an asylum run by a spendthrift renaissance man “doctor” as inept as an inventor as he is primitive as a psychiatrist. Another of the doctor’s patients is the brother of Alfred Tennyson, who’s come to the neighborhood to be near his troubled sib. Nothing particularly surprising happens: The doctor’s daughter falls for Tennyson, Clare hangs out with Roma in the forest, the doctor schemes and goes broke, other patients at the asylum are troubled by their various demons, etc. Still, Foulds–also a poet–writes with clarity and grace, and there’s more than enough here to please and amuse you on two or three plane rides, depending on their length.