Beautiful But Heart Breaking
Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian is a heart breaking but beautiful children’s historical novel set during World War II.
William, a tiny scrap of a boy, is evacuated to the country to stay with Mr Tom, an older man who has kept his own company since his wife and son died years earlier. Both are broken souls in need of love and care.
Mr Tom’s heart is softened by William whose spirit has been broken, along with his body, by his mum. “He was such a bad boy, he knew that… She [Mum] only gave him soft beatings.” William has grown to expect cruelty from everyone. He believes he deserves it. The reader’s heart breaks. His mother has brought William up on a twisted form of religion. “Mum told him that whenever he was good she liked him but when he was bad, she didn’t. Neither did God … It was very lonely being bad.”
It is heart breaking to see the shell of a boy who believes he is bad. It is beautiful to watch him bud and blossom under the love and care of Mr Tom. Together, as their lives open up, they begin to let others in. The whole village is blessed by knowing them.
It is so sad to witness a nine year old who has never had his birthday celebrated. There is an African saying that it takes a village to raise a child. In Goodnight Mister Tom it takes a village to make a difference in a life.
The whole novel is beautifully written. Michelle Magorian has constructed a marvellous set of characters who are easy to visualise and empathise with.
There are hard to read scenes of cruelty and neglect. These are counter balanced by the love of Mr Tom.
I had seen the movie of Goodnight Mister Tom years ago and loved it. John Thaw made the perfect Mr Tom. I love the book even more. It is one I shall return to again and again.
I received a copy of the book from Net Galley. A favourable review was not required. All opinions are my own.