Goodnight Mister Tom – Book Review

We love you John Thaw!!


Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian

Goodnight Mister Tom has been a fixture in my life since I was young. I think in fact I actually watched the 1998 TV adaptation (starring a perfect John Thaw – hence my weird sub-title) before I read the book, but I can’t be TOO sure. It’s all kind of blurred now but one thing I am sure about is that I’m definitely not alone in my appreciation for the story.

But for those of you who might be unfamiliar (SAY WHAT), Goodnight Mister Tom is a children’s novel that was published in 1981 and tells the story of William ‘Willie’ Beech, a London evacuee who, during World War 2, is evacuated to a small village in the country. He is placed under the care of a gruff but kindly local whom William grows to call ‘Mister Tom’ (Tom Oakley to everyone else).

When William first turns up on Tom’s doorstep, he is a very nervous and scared child. Plus illiterate, covered in bruises and god fearing. Tom, a widower and loner, doesn’t really know what to make of him, but tries to make him comfortable. It is apparent early on that though Tom is gruff and short tempered, he is also kind. For example when William first arrives, Tom asks him to hang his coat up but William is unable to reach the coat peg. Tom decides to himself that he will put in a lower peg ‘for the boy’ and asks William to draw a dot where he would like the peg to be. It is small, but thoughtful gestures like this that gradually help William to realise he can trust the ‘strange old man’.

Days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months – William begins to flourish. He has learnt to read, discovered a talent for painting, gained in confidence and made new friends. But of course, good things often come to an end and just after William has starred in the school production of A Christmas Carol he gets a letter from his mother back in London, saying she wants him home. And trust me, that’s nothing good. His mother is HORRIBLE.

See the source image

Though Goodnight Mister Tom is really a book intended for children, it has always been popular with adults as well – and quite rightfully so. In 1998, Carlton Television made an adaptation (JOHN THAW!!!) that was really well received and (dare I say) perhaps even more popular than the book. And seriously, I know I’ve droned on about this one a lot already but no-one could have played it better than John Thaw. NO-ONE!!!!!

So if you’ve never read or watched Goodnight Mister Tom I would implore you to do so soon and it’s usually (always) on at Christmas. It’s the kind of story we can all relate to – any nationality, any age, any background. It’s a story that symbolises the simplest yet most important of our human traits – kindness. And it’s a  bloody good one.


About emmakwall

Films, books, soundtracks, good humour
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39 Responses to Goodnight Mister Tom – Book Review

  1. vinnieh says:

    Excellent work Emma, I remember watching this as a kid and just being emotionally floored by it.

  2. thebookishuniverse says:

    Even though that it will make me cry I am desperate to read it. It’s sounds amazing

    • emmakwall says:

      It will make you cry! Tears of sadness and happiness 🙂

      But it is a lovely book (and it has a happy ending!)

      I hope you get a copy and read it!

      Thank you so much for popping by!! 🙂

  3. Aimee Cottle says:

    Love this book and the film adaptation. I read the book first, in school, then found the film on television a few years later. Absolutely emotional read.

    • emmakwall says:

      Very emotional, I read it again recently and still my eyes filled up with tears!

      Thanks for popping by 🙂 Merry Christmas!

      • Aimee Cottle says:

        It gets me every time! My pleasure. Merry christmas to yu as well 🙂

        • emmakwall says:

          And a happy new year to you 🙂

          I actually watched the adaption on TV a few days after we exchanged these comments! (I cried!)

          • Aimee Cottle says:

            And to you! Youve inspired me to find a copy and rewatch it. Ive not seen it in years. Tissues at the ready! Lol

            • emmakwall says:

              Excellent!! Do you ever use ITV iplayer online? Just th inking it was on ITV over Xmas, maybe they have it on there!

              It’s so good 🙂 I wish they’d made it a bit longer though and kept more of the original story. BUt it’s still excellent. I forgot how sweet Zach (“short for Zacharias”) was 🙂

            • Aimee Cottle says:

              I do! I will have a look this afternoon and see if it is on there. Thanks for the tip!

              Yeah more of the original story would have been good. Zach is adirable. I love him! 🙂

            • emmakwall says:

              Ooh I hope it’s on there! For you to watch of course 🙂 but…also thinking I wouldn’t mind watching it again!!

              Isn’t he just 🙂 so lovely (so sad!!!!!!!!!)

  4. movierob says:

    actually never heard of this. I’ll ad it to my watchlist.

    Thanks Em!

    BTW, did u get my email the other day?

  5. Tom Schultz says:

    Drat! This is NOT on Netflix. It sounds like one of those Christmas season movies we Yanks love, that tug at the heartstrings–like Miracle on 34th St. or It’s a Wonderful Life. I’ll have to keep looking.

    I really appreciate your title, but I don’t think we need to be so formal. Just Tom would do. But, if you insist, then Goodnight, Ms. Emma. I think I hear David Bowie calling (“Ground control to Major Tom”)

  6. theipc says:


    I don’t want to do any crying.


    • emmakwall says:

      Hey Pen! Long time no speak, sorry I have been inundated with important tasks (work and sleeping and flu)

      Hope you’re well? I know you don’t like tissues for crying. (sorry!)

      Merry Christmas Pen 🙂

  7. romeorites says:

    This will make me cry. And I think for that reason I have avoided it. Although I do love a bit of John Thaw. I have heard so many good things about this over the years and can see how it can stay with somebody for a very long time.

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