“Nothing stands still, except in our memory…”
As I’m studying Children’s Literature and I work in a school, most of the books I read at the moment are aimed at children. They tend to fall squarely into two camps. Either they are good (for a children’s book) or they are just good (without the need of a snarky caveat). Of all the books I have read in this genre in the last twelve months, Tom’s Midnight Garden is perhaps the most effective.
Tom is alarmed and distressed when his summer holiday is ruined by his brother selfishly contracting measles, which results in Tom having to stay with his saccharine aunt and his stern uncle. Things take a fantastical turn however when a mysterious clock strikes 13….
I had never heard of novelist Philippa Pearce before reading this book and I was astonished to find that it was published way back in 1958. Her light and breezy writing style gives the novel a much more modern feel. Tom is wonderfully realised and the story brings the feeling of endless summers flooding back from my own childhood. While the book obviously owes a debt to the Chronicles of Narnia, it feels like a much needed update and the metaphysical aspects of the story ensure that it always stands on its own two feet.
Tom’s Midnight Garden is one of those absorbing books that demands to be finished and the ruminations on time and death lend themselves to repeated readings. Despite being voted as Britain’s second favourite children’s book in 2007, Pearce’s classic still feels a little underrated, perhaps in the light of the lack of a decent film adaptation.
This timeless story of an impatient boy and his garden is one to be enjoyed by adults and children alike, there is perhaps no greater praise. Read it to your kids as an excuse to read it at all or just cut out the middle
man child and read it yourself.