Good Night, Mr. Tom: A review

Twelfth book reviewed as part of the 130 Challenge.

After a spurt of mildly heavy philosophical books, I decided to pick one that was a soothing read. It was the simple and endearing tale of William Beech and his caretaker, Mr. Tom, in Good Night, Mr. Tom.

This is a beautiful story that I should have read as a kid, but somehow missed. Set in the World War II era in ‘Little Weirwold’ of rural Britain, it tells the story of a boy who discovers the simple joys of life when he is forced to move out of London due to bombings and stay as an evacuee in the house of a grumpy old man who goes by the name of Tom Oakley.

Good Night Mr Tom CoverIn the time that he spends with Mr. Tom, William softens the old man and brings out the kindness and love that had been suppressed inside of him for so long. Mr. Tom’s relationship with William starts off as pity, but soon assumes the form of a deep and emotional bond. The transformation is so radical, that the villagers are startled by it, but pleasantly so.

The story has beautiful people in it, all of the people in the village are warm and kind towards William. While William’s mother is the perhaps the only negative character in the book, even she has been shown as the victim of a mental disorder. Thus, the author has tried to show through these simple stories of friendship and love, in times of war, that the world is not such a bad place after all.

What appealed to me most was the infinite patience and tenderness that Mr. Tom shows towards a complete stranger. This is really the highlight of the book. But there’s also the deep friendship between Zach and William, both from quite different backgrounds; reiterating the fact that differences don’t matter to friends. Zach is curious, engaging, intelligent and wise beyond his years; but he also has a childish naughtiness that sparkles through the pages. He is definitely a role-model for any youngsters who read this book.

The language of the book is quite simple, but exquisitely so and conveys quite a lot in few words. You can read the excerpts here.

All in all, ‘Good Night, Mr. Tom’ is a wonderful book for that teaches children and adults alike, that there is so much to love and lose in life.

(I have decided not to rate books on a scale as I don’t think it is a good thing to do)

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6 comments

  1. I started to read it, but got bored. Maybe I should give it another shot.

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    1. It’s a kids book. So, you might find that it drags in a few places because the author is trying to explain something to kids. There’s even a birds and bees explanation in the book!

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      1. I read a fair few children’s books (I have 2 kids and they often pester me to read stuff they really like), so it wasn’t that. If I remember rightly, it was that the point of view kept switching erratically, and that annoyed me. Rather a technical objection, but that was the reason.

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        1. Sorry, what do you mean by the point of view bit? I don’t quite follow.

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  2. OK, take a look at Chapter 1 (that’s as far as I got). The Point of View (POV) keeps switching, sometimes mid-paragraph:

    Round his neck, hanging from a piece of string, was a cardboard label. It read “William Beech”. (Tom’s POV)

    Tom was well into his sixties, a healthy, robust, stockily-built man … (William’s POV)

    He glared at Willie … The woman gave a relieved smile. (Tom’s POV)

    Willie watched her go. (William’s POV)

    … He nodded timidly and stared miserably at the plate. (William’s POV)

    Bacon was a luxury. Only lodgers or visitors had bacon and here he was not eating it. (Tom’s POV)

    This is technically sloppy and has the effect of distancing the reader from the story. Are we viewing the scene from Willie’s perspective? Or Tom’s? Or just from a distance, zooming in from time to time? I can’t read books like that.

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    1. Oh! I didn’t have that problem. I think that we aren’t supposed to be viewing the scene from either POV; viewing instead from the POV of a third person, who has the prior knowledge of both Tom and William’s backgrounds.

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