Critical Context

In the Time of Greenbloom, Fielding’s second novel, is one of several to deal with the affairs of the Blaydon family. Its predecessor, Brotherly Love (1954), centers on the trauma John endures when his older brother David, whom he idolizes, has sex with a girl to whom John has become attached. Understandably, John thinks rather less highly of David than before. Brotherly Love was regarded as a promising first attempt. The critics were more effusive in their reception of In the Time of Greenbloom, some calling it “strikingly original,” “expert at juxtaposing the bizarre and the grotesque,” “surprising and delightful as a four-leaf clover in a bed of green carnations.” Not all the praise was unqualified; the book was also judged confusing, the vision obsessive.

Although some of his later novels have been well received, In the Time of Greenbloom is widely regarded as Fielding’s finest book. Fielding, at the time of its publication a physician practicing in southeast England, was so encouraged by the success of the book that he devoted less time to his medical profession and more to his writing. Eventually, he gave up the practice of medicine altogether, emigrating to the United States, where he combined a writing career with that of a university professor. In this early work, he established the major themes that have marked his later novels: man’s relationship to God, his inherent weakness and fallibility, his moral shortcomings and feelings of guilt. Fielding, whose first published works were poetry, infuses his writing with a great lyrical style, but often there is a fine line between vitality and pomposity.