Diana, Princess of Wales once said, “Family is the most important thing in the world.” Author Michelle Magorian’s best-selling novel, Goodnight Mister Tom embodies this theme.
Goodnight Mister Tom is the story of two individuals: Tom Oakley and William Beech. Tom Oakley, a widower, has taken to living a hermit like existence since the death of his wife and infant son. Willie Beech, an eight year old evacuee from London, with an abusive past, is billeted to live with Tom as Britain prepares for war with Germany. Under Tom’s guiding hand, Willie is transformed from a scrawny, illiterate, frightened waif into a young man who embodies the virtues of compassion, responsibility, friendship, courage, perseverance and loyalty. As Willie is transformed, so is Tom. Willie’s presence has changed Tom from a bitter recluse into a loving parent.
Goodnight Mister Tom is a novel which touches the emotion of the human soul on so many levels. Fear, anger, sadness, joy, disgust, surprise, trust and anticipation are present throughout the story at various times. Yet, while the story is broken one, there is healing in the end.
As with the sudden discovery of the lowness of his peg Will noticed now how old and vulnerable Tom looked. It unnerved him at first, for he had always thought of him as being strong. He watched him puffing away at his pipe, poking the newly lit tobacco down with the end of the match.
Will swallowed a few mouthfuls of tea and put some fresh coke on the range fire. As he observed it tumble and fall between the wood and hot coke, it occurred to him that strength was quite different from toughness and that being vulnerable wasn’t the same as being weak.
He looked up at Tom and leaned forward in his direction.
‘Dad,” he ventured.
‘Yes,’ answered Tom, putting down his library book. ‘What is it?’
‘Dad,’ repeated Will, in a surprised tone, ‘I’m growing!’ (1)
(1) Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian; Puffin Modern Classics,; 1996