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TOM BROWN'S SCHOOLDAYS by Thomas Hughes (Oxford University Press: $2.25)

November 19, 1989|CHARLES SOLOMON

Originally published in 1857, "Tom Brown's Schooldays" was one of the first books written especially for boys. However, it's difficult to imagine modern children wanting to slog through Thomas Hughes' prose, which is as fussy and cluttered as a Victorian parlor. (The reader sometimes gets the impression that Hughes is trying to sneak up on the subject of a sentence and surprise it.) Ironically, most readers who pick up "Tom Brown" today are interested not in the hero, whom Hughes intended as the embodiment of wholesome, manly English Christianity, but in the villain, the cowardly, bullying Flashman, whom George MacDonald Fraser turned into the irredeemable but dashing hero of a series of historical novels.

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