Thursday, April 13, 2017

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling: Not quite a review

I've finally finished this. Although it took me a long time, it was surprisingly easy to read. Bear in mind that it was published in 1749, and I expected to have more difficulty with the English. A few words were oddly (and variously) spelt, but otherwise the language was almost entirely modern. Only a few odd words and phrases failed to yield their meaning within the context. 

Of course, the book is written in a style which most modern readers would not particularly like. The author frequently addresses the reader directly, imposing himself upon the narrative, offering opinions and engaging in lengthy digressions from the central narrative. The novel is divided into several books, each of which is subdivided into chapters. The first chapter of each book is presented as a kind of prologue which, rather than progressing the plot, usually involves some kind of philosophical/ethical discourse.

The plot is complex, peppered with larger than life characters and improbable scenarios, with elements that we would recognise as farce. It is, however, of a somewhat more literary character than much of the farce that appears on the stage, particularly in the English theatrical tradition. It is, at times, hilariously funny, occasionally moving, and always insightful. Despite the fashions and styles of the times, the characters and situations are not so very far removed from what we might witness today.

Although many modern readers would struggle with the style in which this novel is written, it is perhaps worth pointing out that what we today consider to be the 'proper' form of the novel is itself but a passing fad. 

I would not presume to give a book which is still being read 268 years after its initial publication a star rating.