Clare: a novel
'I never bury my face in a lilac flower without thinking of him. That smell, that heavy scent of being lost inside the summer, is his smell . . . I still expect, when I pass a lilac hedge, to meet him walking in the lane, to hear him singing some rude verse and laughing to himself.'. John Clare - 'the finest naturalist of all Britain's major poets' - was born two hundred years ago in Helpston village, Northamptonshire. His visionary closeness to nature, the harshness of his life as an agricultural labourer, the bewildering fame that followed the publication of his poems, his epilepsy and his obsessive love for a childhood friend, Mary Joyce, proved too much for his overstrung spirit and he spent the closing decades of his life in a mental asylum. In this intensely lyrical new novel, spoken through the voices of Clare's womenfolk and of the dying Clare himself, John MacKenna brilliantly evokes the emotional life of one of England's most tragic and influential pastoral poets.
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