Tom Jones is a splendid Hogarthian panorama of 18th-century English life and morals, encompassing both city and country, and comprising some of the greatest comic characters in British literature. First published in 1749, it was an instant success and has gone on to become a classic of its genre. Quite simply, there has never been anything like it.
This long, riotously hilarious novel begins in the country at the estate of Squire Allworthy. In a long, leisurely unwinding, we are introduced to all the characters and discover all the main plot elements. Tom has been adopted by the squire after being mysteriously discovered there as an infant. When he grows up, he falls in love with the beautiful Sophia Western from a neighboring estate.
After the initial introductory sections, the novel begins to unwind furiously as our hero, Tom Jones, finds himself embroiled in one moral dilemma after another. Mr. Allworthy's nephew, Blifil, conspires to turn the good squire against him, and Tom is disinherited and kicked out.
Meanwhile, Sophia's boorish father tries to force her to marry the priggish Blifil. She runs away at about the same time that Tom leaves home, and the rest of the novel essentially follows the adventures of Sophia and Tom as their stories join, separate, and intertwine repeatedly. The novel ends in London, where all the loose ends are tidied up and all the secrets are finally revealed. Tom Jones is essentially divided into three parts, with the first being set in the countryside, the second in various inns on the road to London, and the third entirely in London.
Tom Jones continues in Volume 2 and concludes with Volume 3.
©2007 Audio Connoisseur
"Fielding is generally agreed to be an innovating master of the highest originality....He devised what he described as 'comic epics in prose', which are in effect the first modern novels in English....[Tom Jones] is generally regarded as Fielding's greatest." (The Concise Oxford Companion to English Literature)
The book is fun to read but listening to this reader's interpretation and characterization enhances the experience. I don't often save the books that I download but this one I will. Highly recommended.
Jane Austen and Bullwinkle Moose kept flittering through my thoughts as I listened to this book. Fitzwilliam Darcy's ill-considered proposal to Elizabeth Bennet has vague echoes of Miss Arabella Hunt's proposal of marriage to Tom Jones. "In thus disposing of myself, I know I shall incur the censure of the world; but if I did not love you more than I fear the world, I should not be worthy of you..." Further, like Darcy, she imputed to her intended her own thoughts and feelings only to find to her chagrin, she had completely misread the situation. In Fielding's sharply drawn caricatures of Squire Allworthy, Squire Weston, Mr. Blifil, one finds a cartoon melodramatic world with Snidely Whiplash tying lovely, hapless Nell to the railroad tracks with Dudley Do-Right riding to the rescue in the nick of time in a kind of prequel to the modern novel with Bullwinkle Moose as narrator. If you remember Bullwinkle telling Fractured Fairy Tales, then you have a sense of this tongue-in-cheek novel. The villains have big black mustaches; the good guys wear white hats; sometimes walk on the dark side and no good deed goes unpunished. In my time in the United States Navy, "Going to school" on someone is what we called watching experienced seamen and learning from mistakes made by others. It is evident that Fielding is one of the writers on which Miss Austen went to school, from the way she used strong caricatures in her novels such as Lady Catherine, Mrs. Bennet, Miss Bates, Sir John Middleton, Mrs. Jennings, Sir Walter Elliot, Mrs. Norris, et al. If you choose this book, be prepared to give the author time (8-10 chapters) to explain himself. It may be English but it "ain't" today's English. Charlton Griffin does a great narration and a wonderful job translating Fielding's humor for Twenty-First Century ears. I would have never thought I could use Henry Fielding, Jane Austen and Bullwinkle Moose in a review with a straight face.
If you are looking for a novel several cuts above the standard Grisham kind of thing, then I suggest you invest in this one. I admit that my brain did not immediately adapt to the 18th century style of language. During the first hour or so, I had to play-back the recording frequently to understand what was going on. Then something clicked and I found myself slack-jawed in amazement at Fieldings exquisite and clever use of the English language. I also admit that I read Sparknotes synopses before listening to each chapter (free on the web). This helped a great deal with following the story and understanding who is who. The novel is thoroughly packed with brilliantly turned phrases describing human nature and society, the former of which appears to be exactly the same now as it was 250 years ago. The novel is also fun; it is hilarious. The narration is the best you will find anywhere. MB.
This classic novel is brought to life by the talents of Charlton Griffin, whose Audio Connoisseur productions are always a pleasure. The high style and wit are played upon perfectly.
This novel made me think of both Voltaire and Mark Twain with its satire of societal conceptions of wisdom and virtue. Fielding also reminds me of Dickens, though he is far less shy about discussing sex. I think this book is underappreciated by most readers only because they never get to reading it.
Restless musician with what seems to be a worthless MBA in business who has always been determined to make up for a lousy education by reading history and classic lit.
This narrator is one of those actors whose ability to read I deeply envy. Stresses, emphasizes in all the right places, as if he'd read the book dozens of times. Bravo, sir, whoever you are.
I guess in its time this must have been quite a book, but now it just drags on and on with little purpose. I finally gave up waiting for something of substance and got a different book.
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