Tom Jones - Henry Fielding

Tom Jones - Henry Fielding

I'm slightly trepidatious about reviewing Tom Jones, because Fielding does not like critics. In fact, he is so kind as to say this about them:


If a person who pries into the characters of others, with no other design but to discover their faults...deserves the title of a slanderer...why should not a critic, who reads with the same malevolent view, be as properly styled the slanderer of the reputation of books?


Which makes me laugh, but also makes me sure that Fielding would have hated me with every fibre of his being.


On the basis that Fielding is dead, and cannot therefore write nasty letters at me, I am, nevertheless, going to continue.


Tom Jones follows the fortunes of (unsurprisingly) Tom Jones, a foundling raised by a country gentleman who turns him out because of his rakish behaviour. He then pursues his True Love Sophia across England and has many and diverse adventures, most of which seem to involve sleeping with or otherwise courting other women, which, understandably, pisses Sophia off a little.


Aand...that's basically what happens. For eight hundred pages. I spent a month reading about Tom's leisurely misadventures only to find the whole sorry saga resolved by a series of highly unlikely coincidences and renunciations. It was like the ending of a Dickens novel, except with less interesting characters and less credibility, which last, if you have ever read Our Mutual Friend, you will know is quite a feat.


Two and a half stars, because it is actually quite funny in places:


...with a voice as sweet as the evening breeze of Boreas in the pleasant month of November.


Ha! Eighteenth-century sarcasm.


But even that isn't enough to interest me for 800 pages.