Book review

Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce (1958)

Here's a case where just wishing very hard for something actually brings Tom what he wants - somewhere to play and someone to play with. Marooned without friends in a small flat whilst staying with his aunt and uncle, Tom's attention is arrested by the strange grandfather clock in the hall of the big house. It seems to have it's own ideas about time, especially after midnight when it is in the habit of striking thirteen! Compelled to investigate, Tom slips out of the back garden door when the rest of the house sleeps, at thirteen o'clock, and finds himself in a magical summer garden in full bloom, instead of the back yard with dustbins.

Nervously at first, Tom explores. Four children live in this house with the magnificent garden: three boys and a girl. Unfortunately for Tom, who would have liked to play with James, only the girl, Hatty, seems able to see him - and she thinks he is a ghost. Indeed Tom does rather behave like a ghost because he is quite able to walk through walls and doors, and leaves no footprints or shadow. But the pair make the best of it and they have wonderful, absorbing games, climbing trees and hiding in special places. Only the gardener, Abel, seems to pay any regard to Hattie's strange, solitary games, and if he can see anything at all he says nothing and hangs on to his Bible.

But something strange is happening to time even in this fantastic garden, because even though Tom goes to play with Hattie every night, she seems to be growing up fast. And as Hattie grows up Tom seems to her to be growing fainter. But there is one last adventure left to them, and that involves a pair of skating boots, a secret hiding place, and the two of them wearing the same pair of boots at the same time. Nice trick!

This is a lovely, enjoyable book. Extremely well-written, the plot works right down to the very last detail.

What can I read next?

Philippa Pearce has written many books. You could look at:

  • Minnow on the Say

If it is the time travel aspect of the book which interests you, you might enjoy this one by Ronald Welch:

Or the Earthfasts trilogy by William Mayne:

I think you might enjoy this one by Alan Garner:

Or, finally, you could look at this one by Nina Bawden:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

Tom's Midnight Garden features in these lists: