Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Book 4 of 2014: Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

As I’d fallen a little behind on my reading for my course, I had to read three of my set texts one after another to get caught up for my course work. After Swallows and Amazons I moved straight onto Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce.

This is a story about a boy, Tom, who is sent away to stay with his aunt and uncle as his brother has measles during the summer holidays. Forced into quarantine and bored half to death, Tom takes to exploring the large building where he is staying after dark, eventually finding that after midnight the door to the back garden opens into the past. He takes to spending every night there, making friends with Hattie, a young girl who lived in the house before it was divided into flats.

Neither is entirely sure who is the ghost as past, present and future blur together, finally forcing Tom to make a decision about where he really belongs.

As I said last week, it felt like Swallows and Amazons took forever to read, even though it was only about a week. Compared to that this one, which took just over three days, felt like a really quick read. I think I kind of needed that because I had a lot of course work to get through and so a quick read meant that I could get caught up a lot quicker.

Another reason for getting through this book a little bit quicker was because it was just over half the length of Swallows and Amazons, it also helped that it was a book that I’d read before as well. I vividly remember reading it as a child, possibly more than once. I was fascinated with the Victorians as a child so a book which had a child going back to that sort of era obviously appealed to me. That said, despite reading it before, it was a long time since I’d read it so a lot of what I was reading felt new to me, just that I kind of knew what was coming at points.

Actually, that was kind of frustrating, or rather, distracting. I knew that at some point Hattie was going to fall from a tree, I knew she and Tom were going to go ice-skating, I half-remembered vague conversations but although I had these spoilers in the back of my mind, I didn’t know just when they were going to crop up.
I found this really interesting to study, particularly the bit looking at how it was adapted for stage (even though I didn’t use any of that in my assignments). One of the things that worried me when it came to studying Children’s Literature was that writing essays would be hard because I wouldn’t have as much to say about a book by a children’s writer as I had to say about someone like Shakespeare or Webster the previous year. This was obviously an unfounded worry; I found oodles to talk about when I used this book in one of my essays. I got a pretty good mark for that one too.

Obviously this is a children’s book and I think because of the length of the chapters and the way that they’re laid out it’d make a really good story to share with a class or a bedtime story. As an adult reading it, it was a nice read and a good way to escape from pressures of work and other grown-up things. I’m definitely going to have to look out some more of Philippa Pearce’s novels because as far as I’m aware I’ve not read anything else by her.


  1. One of my favourites as too is her "A Dog So Small" - I think because I always wanted a dog when I was really young :)

    1. The name of that one rings a bell. I had a dog as a child but I always secretly wanted another one so books about dogs always appealed to me. :-)

  2. I loved Tom's Midnight Garden when I was younger, I haven't read it in years.

    1. I really enjoyed revisiting it. I do read a lot of children's books anyway, but this course made me look at some of these old favourites slightly differently.


Let me know what you think. :-)