Goodnight Mister Tom has been at the top of my TBR pile for ages and having found a beautiful vintage copy it seemed only sensible to read and blog about it before offering it for sale.A report in The Guardian newspaper on the 25th March 1982 described it thus:
For the first time since Watership Down, a first novel has won the Guardian Award for Children's Fiction. Goodnight Mister Tom, by Michelle Magorian, is everyone's idea of a smash- hit first novel: nostalgic but skirting sentimentality, full-blown characters to love and hate, moments of grief and joy, horror and serenity, compassionate, sensitive and a marvellous story that knows just how to grab the emotions. They were not wrong!
London during the Blitz.
In September 1939 as Britain stands on the brink of World War II, an eight-year-old boy beaten and starved into stunned apathy by his mother is billeted as an evacuee with Tom Oakley in the village of Little Weirwold. Tom is a sad, reclusive widower whose wife and baby died 40 years previously. William "Willy" Beech is thinly clad, underfed and covered with bruises. Tom takes him under his wing, and William soon begins to thrive.
Evacuee children grouped together to be taken away from the danger zones.
As I read about the growing bond between William and Tom, I just knew something would happen to spoil things and lo and behold six months into the relationship William's mother calls him back to London.
When he arrives, William is surprised to learn his mother has given birth to a baby girl. He is happy to help his mother, but she is angry when she hears about his time with Tom. In a fit of temper, she hits him around the head and renders him unconscious. When he regains consciousness, he has been stripped down to his underwear, his ankle is broken, and he is chained to a pipe in the understairs cupboard. The baby is on his lap.
Blitz on Westminster.
Back in Little Weirwold, Tom grows increasingly worried and after several sleepless nights, he becomes convinced William is in trouble. He travels to London and eventually locates the house where William and his mother are living, but it appears to be abandoned. A policeman is called and after some persuasion agrees to break down the door. Together they discover William, beaten, sick and clinging to his dead infant sister. His mother is nowhere to be seen.
This may sound like a depressing read, and indeed parts of it are upsetting but in spite of that I found it totally absorbing. I'm sure the story will live with me for a very long time, so I'm pleased to say it does have a happy ending.
Goodnight Mister Tom is a novel by the English author Michelle Magorian. The copy I have in stock was published by Kestrel in 1982 a few months after the first edition.
Winner of the Guardian Award for Children's Fiction, 1982. Highly commended, the Carnegie Medal 1982. International Reading Association Award 1982. Runner-up for The Young Observer Prize 1982 and Western Australian Young Readers Book Award 1982. In 2003, the novel was listed at number 49 on the BBC's The Big Read. At the 2010 Hay festival Goodnight Mister Tom was voted Favourite Puffin Title Of All Time.
The novel has been twice adapted as a musical, once as a play and once as a film, Goodnight Mister Tom (1998). The most recent theatrical adaptation won the Laurence Oliver Award for Best Entertainment.
Have you read Goodnight Mr. Tom? Did you enjoy it?
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