- Hardcover: 229 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st edition (1958)
- ASIN: B0017CV6WG
- Average Customer Review: 292 customer reviews
Tom's Midnight Garden Hardcover – Illustrated, 1958
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|Hardcover, Illustrated, 1958||
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Top customer reviews
The basic premise is that Tom is sent to stay with his aunt and uncle in the little flat while his brother is ill. The sense of being trapped and smothered is palpable, and the aunt who desperatly wants kids and the stuffy uncle who doesn't know what to do with them are both beautifully fleshed out. Before it was divided into flats, the building he's staying in was a huge house. The only remaining artifact from that time is an old-fashioned grandfather clock in the hallway, that always chimes the wrong time. One night, Tom hears it strike thirteen, and when he goes downstairs, seemingly finds himself in the house as it used to be - and most importantly, in its huge, magical garden, where he makes friends with a girl who used to live there.
This was probably the first time-travel novel I read and it's now a genre I love. For me, the best thing about time travel narratives are when they get really mind-bending, and this delivered that to a surprising degree for a book written so long ago and aimed at such a young audience. Because time doesn't run in a linear fashion in the garden. Though his friend is usually the same sort of age as him (ie. about 8 to 10), occasionally she's a toddler, and sometimes, she's a teenager or young woman. And though he goes every night, months can have passed in the garden, usually forwards, but sometimes backwards. I'd be amazed if the author of the Time Traveller's Wife hadn't read and loved this as a child, as it's broadly the same concept, only with childhood friendship rather than adult love.
It's the cleverness of the concept that really grabbed me, but it's also nice to see a male/female friendship, including a girl who loves to play with bows and arrows and climb trees. The garden is beautifully described and both the Victorian era and the (then contemporary) 1950s are brought to life.
If you've got kids, I'd definitely push this in their direction. Don't be put off by the age or the slightly slow opening - this is brilliant. And if you're an adult looking for a quick, nostalgic read, this is still a great choice.
This being not only my favourite time travel book but perhaps my favourite stand alone novel of all time.
One of the many reasons for its ultimate impact is that it has the most profoundly moving revelation last act that brings the whole journey to an emotional crescendo.
When I was a young early teen reading this, I would relate to the protagonist Tom and his mission to play, having been dispatched to "boring" uncle and aunt for the summer, to avoid catching measles from his bed ridden little brother at home. Knowing how important it was to make the most of the summer holiday to play, I would feel for his plight and hope he finds this midnight garden quickly that the book title promises and so I would be enchanted at his magical discovery and the intriguing new found friendship in a girl called Hattie. Then I would be bewildered at where the main story was going exactly, yet still be enraptured in the journey and then be stunned by its powerful conclusion. At the time, the book became one of my instant favourites despite my love for more fast pace action adventures and fantasies.
However, as an adult, the book resonates in a much different way, more deeper layers emerge about childhood innocence, growing up, and reflections on the passing phases of time, both good and bad. Most of all, I marvel at how so well written this is, how the narrative effortlessly sweeps along with haunting effect and how wonderfully clever the time travel plot device had been woven in. What is masterful about the narrative is how you know what is going on with some of the characters and their thoughts without the book spelling it out. Its all in the expressions and that's where the narrative's power lies. Though this book is written for children, I feel adults would most likely pick up on these deeper unspoken layers.
There isnt much to criticise about this book at all. Just know this is a gentle paced novel with a quintessentially English setting, albeit if two different periods.
It is a masterpiece of young adult literature but as the cliché goes, this is a timeless book for readers of all ages. Its not long, only 240 pages. So friends, take a tiny break from your modern fiction, your fast paced thrillers, schools for wizards, vampires, spaceships or shades of grey. For the next 2-3 days, let this book sweep you back in time, a time of simplicity, innocence, enchantment and poignant reflection then prepare to dab at your eyes for the knock out revelation ending.
I'm now thirty-six, and I've enjoyed reading it as much as I did hearing it. The best children's books are the ones that you still want to read as an adult.
This is a beautiful story, one that is wonderful to escape into.
--Tristan Sherwin, author of *Love: Expressed*
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