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Tom Bedlam

3.6  ·  Rating Details ·  251 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
Growing up fatherless in Vauxhall during the 1860s and working in a porcelain factory, young Tom Bedlam doesn't have it easy. Yet he is a positive spirit, cunning in his pursuit of love and a steadfast friend. But everything changes when his perfidious father turns up, followed by the revelation that Tom has an older brother.
Unknown Binding
Published July 16th 2007 by Not Avail (first published January 1st 2005)
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Community Reviews

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Jul 12, 2007 Jessica rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book by the author of The Laments (and not just because his wife is a good friend!) Hagen creates a rather Dickensian tale of orphaned boys, harsh boarding schools, child labor, and smoggy, dangerous London, then shows how the end stages of colonialism and the Great War ushered in the new complexities of the modern era. The book is intricately plotted, yet never feels confusing or loses sight of character, and even in the darkest settings, there are nuggets of humor, tender ...more
Apr 28, 2013 Meghan rated it liked it
As a Dickens fan, I am sure I went into this with too much excitement. Due to this issue, I really enjoyed Part I, but not so much Part II. The second half seemed to plummet into a downward spiral that was too predictable. I also felt kind of let down at the end of the novel. I'm not sure exactly why yet, as I am still digesting it all. If you enjoy Dickens-like books, I would steer you towards Drood (long, creepy, and excellent), The Meaning of Night, and The Glass of Time are all great.
May 06, 2017 Paula rated it really liked it
3.5/4.0 stars

Saga of a brave and bright young man born into dreadful circumstances in the age of Dickens. Novel spans 50 years from Tom's growing up years in 1860's London to his life as a family man.
Girl with her Head in a Book
Tom Bedlam was published about six years ago and I never see it anywhere any more which I think is a real shame because I absolutely loved it. I read it the year that I studied the Development of the Novel module at university and it was fascinating to read this modern celebration of that journey. Although Hagen is obviously a fan of Dickens, Tom Bedlam is also reminiscent of Tobias Smollett and Henry Fielding. This book is full of the bizarre and the incredible; there are foundlings, coincidenc ...more
Oct 20, 2015 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This one really crept up on me - by halfway through I was almost considering chucking it in. It felt like the drama didn't have enough import - Tom Bedlam was doing reasonably well in life, he'd overcome some troubles, and was experiencing more, but it wasn't the rollercoaster of extravagant highs and lows the back cover suggested. His troubles were at times pressing, but rarely desperate. And then I finally clicked into what was happening - Tom was genuinely growing up. Much of the time, charac ...more
Jun 18, 2009 Colleen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to know how to start discussing this book. It was quite vast--almost the entire scope of a man's life. But I think the author bit off more than he could chew. There were many aspects of the book that I liked. I loved the character Tom Bedlam, his father (the rapscallion!) and his outspoken daughters. The author did such a great job creating his characters that he sacrificed on plot. What plot there was was just too contrived. Characters kept running into each other other all over the w ...more
Robin Nicholas
Jul 07, 2009 Robin Nicholas rated it liked it
I love historical you all know, and I think this could have been better than it was. I did enjoy it and would actually give it a 3.5, but I don't think the author did as much research as he could have. Parts of it felt a little too modern considering it takes place in the late 1800's and early 1900's. The story follows the life of a boy named Tom Bedlam. He grows up with only his mother and the sense that his father could be out there somewhere. His mother was married when he was bo ...more
There were things I quite liked about this book - Tom's estranged parents, for instance, were a wonderfully drawn, as was the Limpkin family- but Tom's early life was a little too Horatio Alger for me. I'm not all that fond of the "mysterious benefactor lifts boy out of the slums" trope. Even if there is a solid reason behind the benefactor's generosity, it usually feels like simply a plot device to me.

Once past that,however, the story was well-built and well-written. Me being me, though, I fou
Jan 08, 2008 megan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book to read while confined to the sofa after knee surgery. It's hefty and described as "a thrill ride: bleak, deep, and hilarious" by the NY Times, which is as good a recommendation as any, don't you think?

It is bleak and it is hilarious. It's VERY Dickensian. A horde of characters, mostly exaggerated to caricature, populate a fictionally historical England and English Africa. It's well written. I can imagine it being adapted to an engrossing BBC miniseries. The thing that made me
Feb 21, 2016 Leslie rated it it was amazing
Imagine if Charles Dickens were writing today; that's what I kept thinking as I read this delightful book. Indeed, this chunky whale of a tale kept reminding me of Dickens, from the wonderful names (Polly Peckham, Arthur Pigeon, the hero of the book's title) to the improbabilities that pile up as the book goes on.

A book that begins, “It is quite possible that Emil Bedlam was simply a very good woman, but to her son, Tom, she appeared insane.” will give you a good idea as to whether or not it is
Jan 12, 2009 Jess rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was OK. It was good even, if you are in the mood for something that is light and pretty predictable. But it's not for everyone. If you like 1. old Victorian England/colony stories set in WWI about working-class people; 2. Dickens (but way faster and really easy to read); 3. soap operas, then this book is for you.

I usually like all of the above. I'm a sucker for anything English-period-piecey. But I did have a few problems with Tom Bedlam. The characters remain the same throughout the
Jan 15, 2008 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: from-dad
Sometimes a good, fun romp with characters that are purposely larger than life. Other times, it drove me a little nuts because I was expected to forgive the protagonist his faults because, well, he tries to do the right thing. Having the best of intentions does not make you a good person or worth of people's sympathy, especially when those good intentions cause you to do the wrong thing -- in that case, having good intentions usually is just an indication that the person confuses what is best fo ...more
May 22, 2010 Shana rated it liked it
An amusing, tongue-in-cheek Dickensian romp. Of course, there are orphans, child labor, deep poverty, a wealthy benefactor. Hagen throws in a few other things in Tom Bedlam's life that keep this from being the same old same old.

Unlike some books of this genre, Hagen deals with issues of gender and injustice. Not that good things happen, but they are exposed for the bad that they were. Much like books of this genre, the plot is a bit too convenient (people finding each other again in different p
Mar 09, 2010 Americanogig rated it really liked it
For those who don’t know: Tom O’ Bedlam is a synonym for a madman. From this poor choice of a child’s name we enter the drama that is the life of Tom. His mother? Kind, but a little nuts. His father? A scheming actor who abandoned his family when Tom was a baby…and as a mystery unfolds, we find it may have been better if he had “stayed gone”. I am not usually drawn to books that encompass a character’s whole life, for if it does not, there is always room for imagination to have its sway. Thankf ...more
Terri Epp
Feb 02, 2009 Terri Epp rated it really liked it
I actually enjoyed this book a fair bit. It is quite long so it is not a quick read. Tom is the main character of the book. He begins his life as a poor lad without a father. One day his father shows up but he is not what Tom had expected. Along the way he learns he has a sibling who was given away by his father at birth.

The remainder of the book keeps coming back to Tom's search for his sibling and how his fortunes change due to his mother's hidden background and the death of a friend.

Some migh
Apr 10, 2010 Kirstie rated it really liked it
Though it may not really change your life, this is an enjoyable and incredibly satisfying book that I looked forward to reading every day since I cracked open the cover. Many reviews emphasize the Dickens-like quality of it which is true, particularly for the beginning half. However, I think it's also just one of those books where you enjoy the spirit of the main protagonist throughout his entire life including both his adventures and his hardships. At the end, you feel like you know him persona ...more
Dec 02, 2012 Gillian rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 16, 2008 Andrea rated it really liked it
Not as fab as "The Laments," this book tracks Tom from his youth as a London factory worker to his turns of fate that lead him to bullies at a boarding school, a scoundrel father, med school in Scotland, and married life in S. Africa with 4 children. Always looking backwards to avoid his own mistakes. Entertaining, probably too many coincidences.
Jun 10, 2009 Vicki rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I thought this was a really charming book -- it's got all kinds of elements in it, but I guess I would describe it as modern Dickensian. Lots of plot twists that are sort of melodramatic, but done in a way that's sort of light, so it doesn't feel so heavy-handed. More or less, Tom Bedlam thinks about family his entire life, because his never seems to be really ideal. It's a great book to lose yourself in, and goes to unexpected places. Good story.
Angie Swain
Apr 11, 2014 Angie Swain rated it really liked it
Every so often, one picks up a book by an author unknown to one and is captivated by the story, the prose, and the humour. It is a Dickens-ish tale of great poverty, a pact made with the devil, and wrestling of conscience until peace is acheived through love of family. The author has only written one other book - what a very great pity - and I intend to hunt it down.
Jul 20, 2010 Roberta rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
I loved everything about this book. Quirky, Dickensian, whimsical. Unlikely coincidences abound but with a loving nod to Victorian tradition. With rich characters and fresh writing, Hagen weaves a tale of one man's life, a life both tragic and compelling. I've always been drawn to the complex characterization of writers like Dickens and King. Hagen follows that tradition.
Nov 24, 2008 Marsha rated it liked it
This book starts off Dickensian and then morphs into Galsworthy, and it's full of interesting characters. I do have a bone to pick with the reviewers quoted on the cover who called it "hilarious" and "black humor." While there is some humor in it, there's not much, and it certainly isn't black. That aside, it was a good read.
Michael Davies
Feb 08, 2014 Michael Davies rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable fictional biography of the eponymous hero-lots of coincidental meetings of main characters, some Dickensian school scenes, murder, melodrama and a World War. Something for everyone really!
Amanda P.
Aug 14, 2009 Amanda P. rated it liked it
I was attracted to this book for it's charming Dickens-like story and atmosphere. And then I was bored by it, because the author tried hard (so very hard!) to copy Dickens exactly. It just got silly at the end.
Lauren Gardner
Jul 30, 2014 Lauren Gardner rated it liked it
A fun, mostly easy read that takes place during one of my favorite time periods. While I certainly enjoyed the book, I do think it was a bit too long. The last 100 pages were hard to finish, even though I loved the characters.
Julia Lesh
Jun 23, 2007 Julia Lesh rated it really liked it
i just started reading this book, but have become quickly addicted. it is the story of a poor, british boy who is abandoned at a young age. As the reader you follow throughout his life to see how the small deeds in childhood can resonate for a lifetime.Highly recommended!
Sara Gerstel
Apr 16, 2008 Sara Gerstel rated it liked it
It wasn't life changing or anything. Even a bit predictable at times, but the characters are really well written. It's one of those inbetween books, although it's around 500ish pages, it's a light read. It's a bit heart breaking at times, and completely endearing.
Oct 11, 2007 melita rated it did not like it
Shelves: recentreads
much too long to read... if I wanted to read a life story, I'd read Bill Clinton's... who cares this much about a fictional character... not interested...
Jan 31, 2016 Linda rated it really liked it
Lovely story about a boy who became a man, doctor
. Involves boarding school, the boer war and ww1 and even introduces the suffragettes
Carolyn Staton
Dec 13, 2007 Carolyn Staton rated it really liked it
a la Charles Dickens. A taste of brutal 19th century British life for the lower class. A little too contrived that all the disparate characters connect, but nonetheless a good read.
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Bedlam and Delight 1 9 Jun 30, 2008 03:07PM  
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