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.
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.