Early in 2015 I read the charming, childhood classic The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and it felt only fitting to end the year with another trip down memory lane with The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit. I had previously read neither but I had enjoyed the films.
This was a perfect read for the lead up to Christmas as it swept me back to Edwardian London. Where middle-class siblings Roberta, Phyllis and Peter have had their world turned upside down; as their father is mysteriously taken from them. They are forced to say goodbye to their devoted servants, comfortable villa, and move with their mother to fend for themselves in a small cottage in the country. Here they are to learn to appreciate the simple joys of life, make friends, help strangers, and have many adventures; mostly revolving around the railway at the bottom of the field.
Our three young protagonists are sweet and naïve children, and the younger two could be accused of being a little spoilt. During this novel they are all transformed in some way. Peter needs to learn to think of others and how to go without. Phyllis is often away in the clouds and needs to learn to be more practical. It is only Roberta (Bobby), the eldest, who is already kind, caring and practical; perhaps because of her age. I particularly loved how strong she was for her mother and her younger siblings. They are joined by a colourful mixture of characters who they befriend and who help them along the way; including the eccentric, well-loved station porter Perks and the kind, old gentlemen – both of whom they met during their adventures with the railway.
This is the first time I have read The Railway Children or anything by Edith Nesbit. This felt more like a comforting re-read though as I am no stranger to the story. I have fond memories of watching the 1970 film, which I often settled down to watch with my mother during the Christmas holidays. Happily I found the book as equally charming – it was nice to get to know the characters a little deeper and to find out some extra adventures and details. While nothing particularly thrilling happens I whipped through this book. It was a perfect read to snuggle down in bed with on the long, dark winter nights of December.
The Railway Children is a charming Edwardian children’s classic which was a comforting winter read. After reading this I am keen to read more by Edith Nesbit – I still have Five Children and It on my Classics Club list. Great read.
Have you read this or watched any of the films?