6 Feb 2011

Goodnight Mister Tom

Goodnight Mister Tom  was written in 1981  by Michelle Marjoram and is a beautifully written and touching story of William Beech, a child evacuee during the Second World War. Set in England in the years just before the war, this book is a children's classic. Young Willie Beech is evacuated to the country just as Britain stands on the brink of war with Germany. Given to the care of Old Tom, a cantankerous sixty year old widower who lived beside a churchyard, William was a sad,sickly, silent, deprived child who had been abused by his mother. Afraid of everything, illiterate and never been loved, the little boy blossoms under Tom's care. Much to the surprise of the whole village, Old Tom  himself changes. The grumpy old man who used to shun village life after the death of his wife and son is now very much involved in this little boy's needs.

What does Mister Tom think of Willie?

"The tales he had heard of evacuees didn't seem to fit Willie. 'Ungrateful' and 'wild' were the adjectives he had heard used or just plain 'homesick'. He was quite unprepared for this timid, sickly little specimen."

It all becomes a bit clearer when Tom unpacks the brown paper carrier bag that Willie has brought with him from his unforgiving London home. There are no warm, spare clothes. There is an old Bible and a leather belt to beat him with. Willie is obviously used to being beaten - he is covered in bruises and bleeding sores. He is so malnourished he can't keep a proper meal down, he wets the bed, he can't read or write, and he shivers and trembles a lot.

Slowly old Tom Oakley discovers that he is falling in love with the sad little boy. He wants to see him smile and be a normal happy boy. He buys Willie his first warm clothes and watches the boy flourish under his care.William learns to read and makes friends with Zach, an outgoing, friendly and optimistic boy the same age as William.

But Willie's life with Mr Tom is about to come to an end - his mother summons him back to London where untold horrors await him at his old home. Tom, worried about the boy, finally goes to London to look for him. He finds William tied, grimy and deep in his own waste carrying the dead body of his infant sister in his thin arms. William is rescued but in danger of being put into a children's home. Again Mr Tom comes to his rescue - this time he kidnaps the boy and takes him back to the country where slowly William gets back his health.

A powerful and moving story of the growing relationship between a grumpy old man and a sad and deprived little boy,  this story is devastatingly sad in places and yet it's also full of scenes of  happiness and beauty. It shows how William deals with his grief and matures in the end. Beautifully and sensitively written, with a a lot of research done on life during the Second World war, this is a good book for all everyone - adults and children.


naida said...

This one sounds really moving. It also sounds like a tear-jerker.
Great review ;)

Kat said...

Thanks Naida! I cried when I read it.

Anonymous said...

I had to read this novel for school and it was quite good but very disturbing at times also.