This month, The Classics Club is asking us what book has surprised us the most so far, and why. I'm somewhat ashamed to confess that even though I'm making steady progress with my Classics Club reading list, so far I have finished two books only: Fadette by George Sand and The Danube Pilot by Jules Verne. However, I am currently reading three classics on my list concurrently: Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter, Ballet Shoes by Noel Straitfeild, and The History of Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. From these five books, I would say The History of Tom Jones has surprised me the most so far.
|The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling (1997)|
It is not for the first time that I read Fielding's novel, but it has been so many years since the last time I read it that I didn't have a vivid memory of it. I just remembered the love story and the mystery surrounding Tom Jones's birth. I also remembered that Henry Fielding has a very funny writing style and that I used to laugh out laud while I had been reading it. But, it completely slipped my mind that The History of Tom Jones is not a simple love story but a moral treatise and a powerful discourse on literature in general and on good fiction in particular. Now, I also understand why Germaine de Staël, in her Essay on Fictions, spoke about this novel in the following terms: Fielding’s Tom Jones is “one of the most useful, most deservedly famous of all novels,” because “love appears in it as only one of many means of showing the philosophical result” (Major Writings of Germaine de Staël, p. 74). For these reasons, The History of Tom Jones is not as easy a reading as I thought it would be. Nevertheless, I enjoy reading it, even if it takes much more time to finish it than I expected.