Historical fiction of nature poet, John Clare's gradual descent into madness while staying in High Beach, a mental institution in England. While he's there, he also comes into contact with Alfred Tennyson. Although Tennyson was not another patient, he was prone to moments of melancholy. Tennyson's brother, Septimus Tennyson, was a patient at the same mental institution, run by Matthew Allen.
Through the multiple characters gracing this book, from Hannah, Matthew's daughter who fancies herself in love with Alfred Tennyson, to Margaret, a patient who believes that she has been called to God, to Eliza, Matthew's patient wife, to Fulton, Matthew's son, to Matthew himself, a doctor, a preacher and a would-be entrepreneur, in addition to the staff at High Beach, the reader is thrown right in the middle of the chaotic and at times, disturbing events in the institution. The disjointed chaos and the confusing emotions one experiences in reading this book was very cleverly woven by the author. Reality and fantasy compete and at times the lines between them are blurred.
We are treated to bits and pieces of John Clare's poetry and to the multiple characters he believes himself to be.
Adam Foulds is interviewed on BBC Radio 3 at mid-day today if you are interested in his work.