Written in 1857, the book is a semi-autobiographical sketch of the life of middle class teenage boys at a public boarding school (Rugby) of the 1830s. There is good description of the English countryside surrounding the White Horse Valley and of school life during the period. That is, if the reader can get around the vernacular of the times. In his first days at Rugby, Tom is engaged in a football match that tends to be confusing if you dont understand the game. Actually, it is not English football (soccer) as we know it, but what is now called rugby (more like our football). At Rugby, Tom and his friends are typical boys in their early teens (except, maybe, for the enormous quantity of beer that they seem to consume at meals, but then, maybe not!). Classroom life would appear quite different, however. Most of this centers around reading and translating Greek and Latin classics. Encompassing this are the typical hazing and rough treatment of the plebe students, a class system established within the student body, and (of course) the usual pranks played by youth as they mature. The boyhood pranks are different due to the times, yet not so far removed from what we experienced, or what boys do today. At the close of the book a cricket game is described in minute detail, and, like the football game, it tends to be distracting if one does not know the intricacies of the sport. However, Tom finally graduates and is eligible to matriculate to Oxford. (For that experience read the lessor known book "Tom Brown At Oxford.")
"Tom Browns Schooldays? is said to be the predecessor of "Goodbye, Mr. Chips." The boyhood pranks might also precede Penrod and Tom Sawyer. The book has also been published as "Tom Brown At Rugby." (Why do publishers and translators insist upon altering the title of books?)
Although I didn't completely finish this book, it's a classic among English school children, I believe. A good picture of how a young boy growing up in England in the 1830's spent his days in Rugby School. Tom Brown is better at rugby than at his academic studies. The story follows him for about 10 years and is somewhat based on the author's brother. It was published in 1857, so it takes a bit of time and patience to get through it after reading modern novels, but well worth it. I intend to finish it one day soon.