megan's Reviews > Tom Bedlam: A Novel

Tom Bedlam by George Hagen
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's review
Jan 08, 2008

liked it
Read in December, 2007

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 not love this book though, the thing that irritated me throughout the whole story, is that Tom Bedlam is singularly stupid. He's not just foolish or careless; he comes across as being incredibly dense. He misses things that are bashing him over the head, he fails to grasp the importance of glaringly relevant moments, he comes to realizations last, long after the reader and all the other characters have moved on. He blunders through everything, much like we do in real life; but since the narrative is rather more omniscient and the story is seen a from a wider range than that of Tom's eyes, he seems dull in comparison.

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