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The Warlow Experiment Herbert Powys, a wealthy man from Herefordshire, is a loner interested only in books and horticulture In 1793 he decides he wants to make his mark on science by conducting an experiment He advertises for a man that is willing to live in solitary confinement in Powys nicely furnished basement The confined man will have a good supply of books and gourmet food, but he must grow his beard and nails during his seven year confinement Powys has only one man answer his ad John Warlow, a semi liter Herbert Powys, a wealthy man from Herefordshire, is a loner interested only in books and horticulture In 1793 he decides he wants to make his mark on science by conducting an experiment He advertises for a man that is willing to live in solitary confinement in Powys nicely furnished basement The confined man will have a good supply of books and gourmet food, but he must grow his beard and nails during his seven year confinement Powys has only one man answer his ad John Warlow, a semi literate laborer with a wife and six children In return, Warlow will receive 50 pounds yearly for life The story has first person accounts by Powys, Warlow, Warlow s wife Hannah, and several servants.The servants have been energized by the French Revolution and Thomas Paine s Rights of Man, and see Warlow s confinement as an example of the upper class taking advantage of a working class man Of course, Powys experiment goes terribly wrong with awful repercussions for everyone involved.Alix Nathan writes well, and has some interesting ideas But the middle of the book explores so many of the servants concerns that the main story sometimes seems forgotten There s been a lot of press lately about the effect of solitary confinement on prisoners and mental health patients in our modern world, so this historical story seems very timely to read I received this book from Serpent s Tail in exchange for an honest review.In 1793, Welshman Herbert Powyss does not want his name to fall into obscurity and decides to conduct an experiment about the effects of a seven year solitude on a man s behavior After constructing underground rooms, Powyss employs semi literate John Warlow to live there His clothes and food will be provided for him, but he won t see or speak to another person for over half a decade Things begin to unravel as Warlow s t I received this book from Serpent s Tail in exchange for an honest review.In 1793, Welshman Herbert Powyss does not want his name to fall into obscurity and decides to conduct an experiment about the effects of a seven year solitude on a man s behavior After constructing underground rooms, Powyss employs semi literate John Warlow to live there His clothes and food will be provided for him, but he won t see or speak to another person for over half a decade Things begin to unravel as Warlow s thoughts wander in the darkness, and Powyss becomes acquainted with Warlow s wife..This was an unsettling, yet addictive read about a man s slow descent into madness and you really do wonder what you would do in such a situation I really enjoyed Warlow s POV which was fairly uneducaed but some of things he obsevered were realy interesting, and what he would write in his diary There s definitely an ick feeling when reading this too because it s obvious that Warlow isn t washing himself or cleaning his surroundings so it s not too long before he s wading through filth and describing all the creepy crawlies on his own body let alone in his chambers.Powyss as a character was annoying mostly due to his selfishness and his entitled air to the point that he didn t act entitled but he never really thought about anyone else It is really intersting that he himself is an extremely solitary person and he decided to undertake such an experiment on someone else I did find the relationship between Hannah and Powyss a bit predictable I liked the POV of Catherine, one of the maids, as someone slightly impartial to everything else going on One of the things I wasn t mad on in this story was probably the revolutionary side plot At the time of the novel, one of the French revolutions is ongoing and some men are beginning to think of overthrowing their masters on English soil as well I wouldn t have a massive interest in the French Revolution or French history in particular so I found myself impatient in these parts to get back to Powyss and Warlow mostly Warlow as his POV was so riveting.The flip near the end of the book of Powyss s and Warlow s living situations really struck me and I thought it cleverly done I did very much enjoy this book and how it all played out I also love that Powyss and Warlow are based on real people and a real experiment, and Alix Nathan has put her own spin on it The year isand Herbert Powyss is set on making his name as a scientist He is determined to study the effects of prolonged solitude on another human being, though before now Powyss s sole subjects have been the plants in his greenhouse He fills three rooms beneath Moreham House with books, paintings and even a pianoforte, then puts out an advertisement, hoping for a gentleman recluseThe only man desperate enough to apply is John Warlow, a semi literate farm labourer who needs to support his wife Hannah and their six children Cut off from nature and the turning of the seasons, Warlow soon begins losing his grip on sanity Above ground, Powyss finds yet another distraction from his greenhouse in the form of Hannah, with whom he rapidly becomes obsessed Does she return his feelings, or is she just afraid of his power over her family s lives Meanwhile, the servants are brewing up a rebellion inspired by recent news from across the Channel Powyss may have set events in motion, but he is powerless to prevent their explosive and devastating conclusion This was not a fast read by any means but a captivating one especially since this was based on a true story.Set in 1792, Herbert Powyss is a wealthy man, a scientist of sorts who wishes to conduct his own experiment and offer labourer John Warlow the princely sum of 50 pounds a year for life if he consents to live underground in a cellar for 7 years without human contact John is a brutish man who beats his children and has grown tired of his meek wife Hannah, so he willingly accepts the offer t This was not a fast read by any means but a captivating one especially since this was based on a true story.Set in 1792, Herbert Powyss is a wealthy man, a scientist of sorts who wishes to conduct his own experiment and offer labourer John Warlow the princely sum of 50 pounds a year for life if he consents to live underground in a cellar for 7 years without human contact John is a brutish man who beats his children and has grown tired of his meek wife Hannah, so he willingly accepts the offer to live in comfort and away from his family Little does he know that this experiment will go horribly wrong for everyone with consequences that were never imagined There were times the story lagged for me, but the depth of the story kept me intrigued till the end A haunting and somewhat somber read Nathan s novel is based on a true story in 1793, a Mr Powyss offered 50 a year for life to any man who would undertake to live in solitary confinement underground for seven years, without cutting his nails, hair, or beard, keeping a journal of his thoughts The advertisement was answered by one man, a labourer with a wife and a large number of children Nathan skillfully integrates the class upheaval occurring in England at the time, and the voice of John Warlow, the semi literate ploughman w Nathan s novel is based on a true story in 1793, a Mr Powyss offered 50 a year for life to any man who would undertake to live in solitary confinement underground for seven years, without cutting his nails, hair, or beard, keeping a journal of his thoughts The advertisement was answered by one man, a labourer with a wife and a large number of children Nathan skillfully integrates the class upheaval occurring in England at the time, and the voice of John Warlow, the semi literate ploughman who takes up the offer, is poignantly and viscerally rendered Out in July and not to be missed Originally posted on my blog, Elle Thinks.If you like what I write, why not buy me a coffee The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan has the best premise I ve read all year Can a man live for 7 years underground without seeing another human face It s 1792 and Herbert Powyss is a rich middle aged bachelor living in Moreham House in Herefordshire Powyss enjoys reading scientific papers and cultivating rare plants and vegetables in his vast gardens and greenhouses He is essentially a man of leisure and learning.Seeking mention in the scientific journals he reads and the accolades he dream The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan has the best premise I ve read all year Can a man live for 7 years underground without seeing another human face It s 1792 and Herbert Powyss is a rich middle aged bachelor living in Moreham House in Herefordshire Powyss enjoys reading scientific papers and cultivating rare plants and vegetables in his vast gardens and greenhouses He is essentially a man of leisure and learning.Seeking mention in the scientific journals he reads and the accolades he dreams will follow, he devises an experiment, converts the cellar beneath his house into a fine set of apartments and places the following advertisementA reward of 50 pounds a year for life is offered to any man who will undertake to live for 7 years underground without seeing a human face to let his fingernails grow during the whole of his confinement, together with his beard Commodious apartments are provided with cold bath, chamber organ, as many books as the occupier shall desire Provisions will be served from Mr Powyss s table Every convenience desired will be providedTo his disappointment, the advertisement attracts just one applicant John Warlow is a rough labouring man who drinks, beats his wife Hannah and has trouble putting food on the table for his six children He claims he won t miss seeing anybody for 7 years and is fixated on the guarantee of 50 pounds a year for life if he stays the duration of the experiment.Warlow enters his lavishly furnished apartments in 1793 and is due to come out in the new century, 1800 Although semi literate, Warlow is asked to write a regular journal and has ready access to as many books as he wants There is a dumb waiter that will provide food, wood, candles and other supplies.Written in the third person with chapters focussing on different characters, we re given insight into Powyss, Warlow, Hannah Warlow s wife and several of the household servants I definitely enjoyed Warlow s chapters the most His thought process and experiences were transfixing and I longed to know what he was up to Ironically, these same thoughts quickly begin to plague Powyss as he too becomes fixated on Warlow s existence just a few floors beneath his sumptuous library Powyss assuages his guilt by reminding himself Warlow is a willing participant and focussing on how the money from his experiment is transforming Warlow s family.I was eager for the experiment to work and for each of the characters to play their role without messing it up Unfortunately, accomplished author Alix Nathan had other plans Powyss s experiment doesn t quite go to plan for a variety of reasons, and it reminded me just a little of the experiment failing in Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.It was exciting to learn in the Author s Note that the author had based her novel on a real advertisement she stumbled across in the Annual Register from 1789 to 1814, and specifically the volume for 1797 Presented in a small hardback volume with a beautiful cover and stunning endpapers, I was easily transported back in time in this gothic exploration of solitude, scientific learning, mental anguish, transformation, love, penance and regret.If you re at all intrigued by the premise, then The Warlow Experiment is for you Highly recommended for historical fiction readers and fans of the gothic genre Copy courtesy of Allen Unwin 4.5 May or may not upgrade to a 5 Definitely want to say things about this book as well as the one I just I finished previously, Recursion both definitely among this year s favourites, thought I cannot imagine twodifferent novels either As someone who cherishes my alone time what reader doesn t , I was intrigued by the premise of this book A wealthy gentleman in 18th century Wales offers to pay a man to live in solitude underground in his converted cellar for 7 years This is framed as a sort of scientific experiment The subject is to live in ease and comfort with all his needs supplied and also will have all his outside obligations taken care of At the end of the 7 year period, he will receive a lifetime income sufficie As someone who cherishes my alone time what reader doesn t , I was intrigued by the premise of this book A wealthy gentleman in 18th century Wales offers to pay a man to live in solitude underground in his converted cellar for 7 years This is framed as a sort of scientific experiment The subject is to live in ease and comfort with all his needs supplied and also will have all his outside obligations taken care of At the end of the 7 year period, he will receive a lifetime income sufficient that he won t have to work.I had in my mind Henry David Thoreau and Walden Pond.nothing could be further from.Early in the book, I started to lose interest but I held on and was richly rewarded At the end Nathan provides us with the text of the newspaper article that inspired this book.fascinating This is really good historical fiction and a fine piece of writing I enjoyed it thoroughly This is an intriguing read, off the beaten path for sure Going from a reasonable human experiment to yep, that was to be expected But the journey, wow It s 1793 Powyss, a wealthy man, wants to conduct an experiment to find out how resilient the human mind is when isolated from the world John Warlow is the only one who volunteers, mainly because the offer of 50 a year for the rest of his life is so tempting He agrees to live in a luxurious but dark apartment in the basement of Powyss ma This is an intriguing read, off the beaten path for sure Going from a reasonable human experiment to yep, that was to be expected But the journey, wow It s 1793 Powyss, a wealthy man, wants to conduct an experiment to find out how resilient the human mind is when isolated from the world John Warlow is the only one who volunteers, mainly because the offer of 50 a year for the rest of his life is so tempting He agrees to live in a luxurious but dark apartment in the basement of Powyss mansion He and his pauper family outside are very well looked after So far so good The book has a good pace, an interesting subject and I m glued to my Kindle.Pretty soon though Warlow realises he s on his own No job, no human contact, nothing to do and his hair and nails are growing steadily He makes up all kinds of mischief to keep himself occupied, but the first cracks are beginning to show and the mood gets darker We follow his existance for four years, as well as life upstairs and in the regular world.There is a good balance in darkness and light, good times and bad, and we get to know all characters indepth The writing is excellent, I like how language is used to show the ranks in society I won t spoil the ending, but as the book progresses, you ll see it coming How it eventually plays out though is quite stunning.The Warlow Experiment is food for thought, well crafted and highly recommended.Thank you Netgalley and Serpent s Tail for the ARC A reward of 50 a year for life is offered to any man who will undertake to live for 7 years underground without seeing a human face to let his toe and fingernails grow during the whole of his confinement, together with his beard Commodious apartments are provided with cold bath, chamber organ, as many books as the occupier shall desire Provisions will be served from Mr Powyss s table Every convenience desired will be providedHerbert Powyss, Moreham House, Herefordshire, January 1793.The pre A reward of 50 a year for life is offered to any man who will undertake to live for 7 years underground without seeing a human face to let his toe and fingernails grow during the whole of his confinement, together with his beard Commodious apartments are provided with cold bath, chamber organ, as many books as the occupier shall desire Provisions will be served from Mr Powyss s table Every convenience desired will be providedHerbert Powyss, Moreham House, Herefordshire, January 1793.The premise of this novel would have been incredible, were if not for the fact that it is based on facts which actually occurred In an Author s note at the end of the book, Alix Nathan quotes an extract from the Annual Register for 1797 which describes the terms of the experimentor less as reproduced in the introductory quote and adds that it appears that an occupier offered himself for this singular residence, who is now in the fourth year of his probation, a labouring man, who has a large family, all of whom are maintained by Mr P This nugget of curious information is all thetantalizing, because there appears to be no account of the aftermath of this real life experiment Nathan, intrigued by the narrative opportunities of this episode, wrote two related short stories An Experiment, Above and An Experiment, Below, reflecting, respectively, the point of view of the scientist and subject These stories eventually formed the basis of The Warlow Experiment, in which a wider canvas allows the author to enlarge her cast of characters and dwell longer on the historical backdrop We do not know the motivations of the real life Powyss Nathan s is a recluse who prefers the company of his books and music at his residence, Moreham Hall, to the idle entertaining which seems to be expected of him With no family, a frosty relationship with his servants and just oneor less like minded friend, his only dream is of being recognized in scientific circles This is what he sets out to do with his unique experiment Shockingly, he does not seem to take into account the fact that, his subject being a human being, this would raise ethical issues Powyss dogged determination is not tempered with enough humanity to make him realize that the consequences of his actions could be tragic This seems to dawn on him only when he gets to know better Mrs Warlow, whom he supports during the course of the experiment Not unexpectedly, he becomes attracted to this woman, so different from himself in class, background, education and temperament this, ironically, makes him question the correctness of the experiment whilst only complicating an already explosive situation.Nathan has drawn a compelling story out of the bare bones of the Annual Register account The three part narrative arc of the novel is satisfying although some of the scenes, especially the final one, feels contrived and I particularly admired the different voices and points of view which are very well brought out The contrasting narrators obviously reflect the origin of The Warlow Experiment as two short stories, but the novel also includes the voices of other characters, including Mrs Warlow The characterization is complex in this respect, one of the figures I liked best was the housemaid Catherine, whom we see developing from a frankly rather unpleasant young woman to a steely, determined and big hearted figure.The novel also works wonderfully as historical fiction The late 18th Century was a period of philosophical and scientific inquiry but was also possibly for the same reasons a period of social turbulence, with revolutionary ideas sweeping across Europe This backdrop serves to highlight the social themes of the book Indeed, the experiment brings out the inherent injustices of a classist and patriarchal society Powyss seems to expect that a gentleman of his background would be interested in becoming a hermit for science He does not stop to consider that the only person who might wish to give up his liberty for a pension of fifty pounds would likely be someonefinancially desperate Despite Powyss s attempts at being humane, the nature of the experiment itself turns Warlow into a dehumanised subject, and only serves to accentuate the divide between classes Moreover, it is suggested that, at all levels of society, it is women who suffer most the educated and enlightened Powyss, his progressive friend Fox, the firebrand Abraham Price with his dreams of equality all become selfish and rapacious where women are concerned At the same time, women are portrayed as the instigators of hope and redemption In this respect, this is a worthy addition to a number of recent historical novels with a feminist streakVisit for a complete review including music by composers mentioned in the novel


About the Author: Alix Nathan

Alix Nathan was born in London and educated there and at York University where she read English and Music.She has lived in Norwich, Munich, Philadelphia, Birkenhead and now in the Welsh Marches where, with her husband, she owns some ancient woodland.She has published three children s books and written about Christina Rossetti and the 18th century writer and notorious beauty Mary Robinson.Since 2006 she has been writing adult fiction and her short stories have been published in Ambit, The London Magazine, New Welsh Review and read on BBC Radio 4.Her short story collection, His Last Fire, was published with Parthian in 2014 In 2015 Parthian published her debut novel, The Flight of Sarah Battle.


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