Kirkus Star


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First-novelist Coleman has set out to do nothing less than write a sequel to the great Tom Jones, an enterprise fraught with hazards too numerous to count. But he wears his wide learning so lightly, and captures the wry, balanced, and tolerant voice of the great master so adroitly, that it's hard to imagine Fielding himself less than pleased with the result. The action picks up in 1774, when Tom (now Squire Jones, age 44, universally respected, father of three grown children, and six years in mourning for his beloved Sophia) gives in to his desire to travel abroad and see more of the world. He puts his estate into the trusteeship of one good Dr. James, gives his daughter Amelia--18--into the guardianship of the same, signs the necessary legal papers (but without reading them carefully) drawn up by his sinister but longtime lawyer Mr. Sinamore, and sets off for London. Hardly has he left, however, than the evil Mr. Sinamore and Tom's oldest (and oh so evil) son Hacksem begin acting on their conspiracy to seize and then industrialize the vast and bucolic Jones estate. They first ""murder"" the good Dr. James, then threaten his widow (now Amelia's guardian) with foreclosure on her estate, causing the two of them, along with the good Parson Adams and Limeslices the maid, to flee to London in search of help from Tom. But, alas, Tom has left already for France as secretary to Lord Suffley (and paramour of the egregious Lady Suffley), and from there he will go to America, where Suffley will become the tyrannical governor of Maryland, and where Tom, against great odds, will pursue the woman he loves--the endlessly brave, marvelously attractive, arms-smuggling patriot Mrs. Wilson. More complexities follow, with trans-Atlantic chases, the battles at Concord and Lexington, the imprisonment of all on charges of treason, the most unexpected of rescues on the high seas, and--of course--exoneration, return to England in the nick of time, the saving of the estates from the villains, and, last but not least, wedding bells. Crafted and entertaining as it is, the plot alone does insufficient credit to a book that in other ways too is poised, droll, perceptive, and fun. Reenter the 18th century (with a whiff of the 20th), meet, among others, Beaumarchais, Dr. Johhson, and Ben Franklin, and, in the spirit of the venerable humanist Fielding himself, ""pause to consider how much better this world would be, were all our wars fought with words alone."" Admirable, first-class work in the genre of the redone classic.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1985
Publisher: Linden/Simon & Schuster