"Not nearly so successful as 'Tom Brown's School Days'" said the book review. However, I found it a great joy to read. It has a much wider canvass than just Oxford and thus introduces the reader to other types of characters - in particular the villager Englebourn. The chapter entitles 'The Village Constable' is really superb. It reminds me so much of Thomas Hardy's 'Under the Greenwood Tree' - what with the feud over the introduction of an organ into the village church - and the conflict between those below, and those up in the gallery, concerning the music to be sung.
The book is typical of Victorian morality, but that is what makes it such a good book - a book with a challenge. The hero is not 'a bit of a prude,' indeed, he seems to have his fare share of wild living, but he is brought to see the error of his ways by some very different types of characters. They all have some effect upon him making him think about himself and about life.
The author doesn't go deeply into belief in God - Jesus is never mentioned by name - indeed, far less is said in this story than in 'Tom Brown's School Days.' But the moral tone is very strong, and is evident throughout the book: muscular Christianity, honesty, truth will out, etc. Of course this sort of writing is looked down upon today because the vast majority of authors have gone to the other extreme, it seems, of having no moral standards at all. This type of writing, however, filled boy's comics and had an influence for good. It sets standards and, according to some polls, people prefer a bit less violence and filth than is the norm among the media - books, TV, and films - today.
My only criticism is the story's weak ending. The last three or four pages are just not necessary - Tom become a grovelling toady. This is not in character with his former self. However, despite this I greatly enjoyed the book - its peep into life at Oxford in the 1840's, its view of political goings on in the country, and the scene of village domesticity....Continua