Saturday, 11 July 2015

Books I Have Read - The Railway Children

The Railway Children
E. Nesbit

This story was first published in 1906 by Wells Gardner, Darron & Co.  Published in Puffin Books in 1960. Re-printed in 1963, 1965, 1967 (twice), 1968, 1970 (twice), 1971 (twice), 1972 (twice), 1973, 1974 (twice), 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981 (twice)

This story has appeared as a television series and has been made into a film.

I liked two things about this story. The first was the story line. Again it is a story with a happy ending. It is a story with an awful lot going on. There is a secret that you know nothing about until the end. The second is the way E. Nesbit speaks to the reader. I am a fan of this style but I have been told that it is frowned upon these days. I should also say that there is another thing I like, the details. I love stories with lots of detail. Detail about the characters, the emotions, landscapes, the reasons why – which is the background into why the family is in the position it is and how they get out of it. This makes for a long story but I don’t mind that.

I love the way Nesbit has been able to make the ‘voices’ of each character their own. She has a real knack of being able to show how even though there are times when the children niggle and argue with each other, in the end they are a family who love and care for each other and the other people around them.
The story is based in England and revolves around the children’s father being taken away by some men one night and not returning until the last chapter. The children and the reader never know why. Because of this, the life the family, Mother, Roberta (Bobby), Peter and Phyllis (Phil), had, has gone and they are forced to move to the country and live in a cottage called Three Chimney’s near a railway. The servants are gone, the niceties of life are gone and the money is disappearing and they are struggling.
Their mother spends her days writing, writing, writing. She is writing to anyone who will listen to her about her husband’s plight and getting nowhere. She is writing stories to sell to newspapers and magazines to bring in some desperately needed money. She also home schools the children and helps them and attempts to keep them happy. 

The children have lots of time to explore the nearby railway station and many other parts of the countryside. This means they encounter lots of people and help all of them in some way. They stop what would have been a terrible train accident from happening. They save a baby from a fire, a young man who broke his leg in a railway tunnel. This young man (Jim) turns out to be the grandson of the ‘Old Gentleman’ they had been waving to as he travelled on the train every day.
I find it interesting how Mother keeps the devastating situation their family is in a secret from everyone, except Aunt Emma, until her daughter Roberta sees a newspaper article about her father’s arrest. Even then it is only Roberta who knows, the other children are not to be told. This is when Roberta contacts the Old Gentleman for help.
I also found it interesting that the children never seem to ask what has happened to their father, they just accept everything. They accept him leaving, them moving to the county, them suddenly being poor. I am sure the children of today would not take these circumstances so calmly. They would question everything.
The reader learns how Roberta is worried about her mother but does not ask why she is working so hard but if it was not for her the doctor would not have been fetched when her mother gets very sick. Their Mother does not want anyone helping them or knowing that they are poor but fortunately the children have other ideas. In the end this means that the Old Gentleman helps to prove their father innocent and released from jail.

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