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Classic childrens time travel novel still enchants me as an adult
on 20 March 2017
It has been several years since I last read this beautifully enchanting and somewhat haunting time-slip tale about childhood, friendship, adolescence and the ocean swept passages of time. So I felt an urge to read this again.
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.