Saturday, April 27, 2013

Book Log: Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian

("Good night" seems like two words to me, but it's one on the cover. Oh well.)

One of my criticisms against 'Skull in Shadows Lane' was that it read like a children's book (which it was, so it's not a terrible thing). Goodnight Mister Tom, which is also about children in wartime England, did not read like a children's book. I think this is a good thing (certainly, I enjoyed it), although part of me wonders if it really is a children's book.

William is evacuated from his meagre home in London to a surprisingly pleasant place in the country, where he stays with a crusty, but kind childless old widower: Mister Tom. Will blossoms in the wholesome new environment and it's a delight to watch his character unfold. Part of the delight, certainly, is being able to see things coming when he can't. I'm not sure how much that would change between an adult and a child's perspective.

It's a little odd to realise that I just don't know. As I write now, looking for an example that's more adult-oriented than kid-oriented, I can't think of a specific example. It's rich - I found some of the Heidi parallels rather fun, especially when somebody mentions the novel in a different context, but I don't imagine every reader would notice/appreciate that. The division probably doesn't have much to do with age, though. Some of the topics it deals with are horrible, but it does handle them well. I guess I wouldn't read it to small children, but that doesn't mean it's not a children's book at all.

I think I'll take it as this novel correcting the fault I found with 'Skull in Shadows Lane'. It has as much depth and colour as I could ask for, without particularly moving out of the realm of children. There's lots going on, but it's understandable. And if it takes more than one read to get all the goodness out of it - well, that's a sign of a good book, isn't it?

'Goodnight Mister Tom' is a coming-of-age novel that looks at some relevant topics of varying difficulty (abuse; discrimination; "gifted" education; interactions of family and state) rather well. The author loses herself very well, so that I'm not thinking about gender equality in education, but only wondering whether or not Connie will be able to go to high school. Which may lead me to the same topic, but lets me think about it in my own way. And I think these topics deserve some thought.

I enjoyed this. I'd like to read it again at some point.

No comments:

Post a Comment