Alex's Reviews > The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding
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's review
Jan 10, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: 2011, reading-through-history, rth-lifetime

900 pages later, I can confirm what my friend Wales told me: this book has nothing to do with the Tom Jones who asked, "What's new, pussycat?"

Instead, it's a massive blow-up of a classic Shakespeare comedy that exactly follows the classic structure: our likable heroes are introduced; a series of miscommunications and devious acts by rivals conspire to rend them apart; you know how act V goes in these things, and you'll see it coming here as soon as you realize this book is a comedy, which if it's not at the Table of Contents, you're not reading very carefully.

(Romantic comedies, of course, still follow this exact structure today (see Meet the Parents and every Jennifer Lopez movie), and it still leaves me tearing my non-existent hair out at everyone's steadfast refusal to have a simple conversation that would clear all this up.)

By "massive blow-up" I mean not a deconstruction but a really, really long version of a Shakespeare comedy, and this book is too long. Despite the pleasantness of the prose, and the not infrequent passages that actually made me laugh, it's a meandering shaggy dog of a story and it'd be better-known and better-loved today had Fielding had an editor.

But it is pleasant, and that puts it worlds above Fielding's bitter rival Samuel Richardson, the author of a book I recently detested. This, I just liked.
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Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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message 1: by Mathew (new)

Mathew Owens You do know it's not *that* Tom Jones, right?

message 2: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Matthew is funny! Have you got "Delilah" stuck in your head now??

Alex Mathew wrote: "You do know it's not *that* Tom Jones, right?"

Well, that explains a number of things about this book.

message 4: by El (new)

El I swear my copy of this book looks much larger than 900 pages. I can't believe I haven't read it yet.

Alex Mine includes a 50-page intro and 100 pages of notes, so it's bigger than 900 too. Like I said above, it's good....but not good enough to hold your interest for all those 900 pages.

message 6: by Stacie (new)

Stacie My copy is less than 900 pages, but the writing is tiny.

Alex I used the Penguin Classics edition, which has a good intro and a map. Map! It's in the original language, which is a little distracting; People back then capitalized every Noun and put all Names in Italics. You sorta get used to it.

message 8: by Stacie (new)

Stacie Makes me want to get the Penguin Classic edition instead.

message 9: by Meghan (new)

Meghan I bet you could find the answer to what's new if you tried hard enough.

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