What’s it all about?:
The story is set during the Second World War, when Tom Oakley, an elderly and unsociable widower, finds himself with a young evacuee on his hands. Willie is a sickly, under-nourished and ill-treated London child, but we see him blossom in Tom’s care into a healthy, happy and talented boy. He makes friends for the first time, and is surprised to find that he soon forgets to be homesick, as there is always so much to do in the village. This tale traces the beautiful and profound relationship that develops between the man and the boy.
What did I think?:
Goodnight Mister Tom is one of Chrissi’s all-time favourite books and I know she also used to love the 1998 film adaptation starring John Thaw as Tom Oakley, a disgruntled and solitary old man who is forced to house a young boy, evacuated from London during the war. Actually, I really don’t know why I haven’t ever read this book up until now, I can completely understand why she loves it and it has also made its way onto my all-time favourite books list. Thanks, Chrissi!
When Willie first arrives at Tom’s door, he is petrified of the old, grumpy man who he is certain will beat him with a stick or brand him with a hot poker. The sad thing is that Willie has been abused all his life from someone who was supposed to love him, so he doesn’t know any different. He is quiet, scared of everything, has no friends or interests and, to his embarrassment and horror, wets the bed on a nightly basis when he first arrives at Tom’s house. However, Tom has his own tragedies that he deals with from day to day – losing his young wife and baby son has greatly changed him into the man we meet. It is as if he is scared to let anyone else into his life just in case he loses them too and his snappy exterior is a defence mechanism and protects him from potential pain and loss.
Nevertheless, there is something about Willie that melts something in the old man’s heart and he begins to care a great deal about him, soothing his fears, calming his nerves, encouraging his talents, helping him to learn and letting him know (in a gruff but very kindly manner) that he is loved. Under Tom’s gentle ways, Willie makes his first friends, learns how to play and be happy like a normal child of his age and discovers hidden talents that he never knew he had. In this way, Tom also learns to deal with his own traumatic past and a beautiful relationship starts to develop. There are still hard times to come for poor Willie, but with Mister Tom by his side, he has no need to be afraid.
I have so much love for this book I don’t know where to start gushing about it! The characters are so beautiful, particularly Mister Tom and Willie and it would take a hard-hearted soul to resist falling in love with them. I was certain I had seen the film adaptation but perhaps I haven’t as I was certainly shocked by some of the events in the story that I did not recall. I am quite glad however that I didn’t know particular details as I felt the story made more of an impact on me than if I had been aware of spoilers. So, be careful to avoid these if you haven’t read this before! The author certainly doesn’t hold back from difficult situations and had me both tearful and captivated at the same time. I’m sure this novel first published in 1981 is destined to be a classic for many years to come and I know I’m going to enjoy re-reading it in the future.
For Chrissi’s fab review please check out her post HERE.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of five):