A dozen or so years ago a reviewer compared the French edition of my novel Shadows of Empire to one by Michel Déon, Les Poneys Sauvages. Naturally I read it and was happy to find it very good indeed. I said as much to my French niece, who replied, ‘Yes, Déon’s excellent, but you really must read Le Jeune homme vert, it’s marvellous, I love it.’ Well, somehow I never did so, though always meaning to follow her advice. Now it appears in a new and very good translation by Julian Evans, under the title The Foundling Boy, and my niece was quite right. It really is marvellous, that rare sort of novel you lose yourself in and never want to end. It comes garlanded with praise from William Boyd and Paul Theroux, and I’m not a bit surprised.
It’s a picaresque and its model is Tom Jones, one of the first great English novels. Fielding’s novel is distinguished by its lightness of touch, its fertility of invention, its generosity and geniality, its good sense and the relish for varied experience which it breathes. The same may be said