Book name: Tom’s Midnight Garden
Author: Philippa Pearce
Format: Print, ebook, audiobook
Genre: Vintage children’s books
Publication Date: 1958
Star Rating: 5/5
Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce is an enduringly popular children’s books and it also won the Carnegie Medal.
Every time I read it, I am struck by its intense sadness.
Most children’s books involve plenty of action and danger.
Just think of Will Stanton in Susan Cooper’s ‘The Dark is Rising’ sequence, or any of the Swallows and Amazons series of books.
Or the ‘Just William’ books by Richmal Crompton. One way or another, kids are always getting into scrapes.
Tom’s Midnight Garden is very different. Tom is sent to stay with an aunt and uncle when his brother has measles.
They live in a flat and have no children, so Tom feels very isolated.
This isolation spurs the psychological upheaval that enables Tom to be able to travel back in time to when the block of flats was a single, large home with a big garden.
That’s now sold off and is partly built over so, whenever Tom is in the garden, he knows that he has travelled back in time.
Most people can’t see Tom. This leads to a ghost-like feel, and even some concern (voiced on the back cover of the book) that Tom might be a ghost. Personally, I don’t share that view.
However, Hatty (a young girl) can see Tom. They get to know each other and Tom learns plenty about the challenges of her own life as an orphan taken in by relatives who think her a nuisance.
There is an inescapable sadness to Tom’s Midnight Garden, spurred by the isolation experienced by both Tom and Hatty in different ways. Eventually, Tom must return home to his parents and Peter, his brother.
However, the twist that supplies the happy conclusion is both unexpected and entirely credible: the best kind of plot twist.
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