The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
Author: E. Nesbit Website
Published: First published 1906
Format: Kindle e-book
Project Gutenburg: E-book
Book Depository: Paperback
Challenge: 2013 Children's Classics Challenge
Source: Free Kindle download
Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
Three children, forced to alter their comfortable lifestyle when their father is taken away by strangers, move with their mother to a simple cottage near a railway station where their days are filled with excitement and adventure
I loved the story of The Railway Children when I was growing up because I adored the film adaptation. But when I started looking at books to read for my Children's Classics Challenge I couldn't recall whether or not I'd actually read the book as a child. Because I couldn't remember, I added it to the list immediately! The Railway Children follows Roberta (or Bobbie), Peter and Phyllis as they make the move from the city to the countryside. There's lots of changes to get used to but the three children become fascinated by the local railway which runs by their house. Cue lots of adventures!
It's so hard to know where to start with this review because I adored this book and have so, so much to say about it! Firstly, I think it was really interesting to see just how the characters coped with the huge upheaval they go through in the story. The children are moved from the city to the countryside and have to survive on less money. Rather than seeing it as a problem, the children see it as an adventure and come to adore their new surroundings. I really liked that about them. And the surroundings themselves made such a great setting for the story. I felt like I was right there in the countryside with them.
I have to point out that I can completely relate to the central family. Not because I've been in their situation but because of the makeup of the siblings. There are two girls and a boy which is exactly the same as me and my siblings. The eldest - Bobbie - instantly became my favourite because I identified with her immediately (I'm also the eldest!). She's the one who throughout the story takes on the responsibilities and worries and cares for other people. She nurses her mother at one point which I thought was a real character defining moment. Then later on when she becomes aware of a secret, you can see just how much of a burden that responsibility becomes. I could really relate to that feeling of having to be the responsible one and the worry you feel for other people. Her relationship with her mother was really sweet and touching, and I adored her protectiveness of her siblings.
What was great about all the characters was their unique personalities. Peter was foolhardy and headstrong, and Phyllis was the one with the runaway imagination. And I found the relationship between the three children to be completely lifelike and accurate. They would talk over each other and there was that competitiveness there. There was the tension from Peter who thought girls were stupid and the girls themselves really stood up to him and became quite strong female characters.
As well as their relationship with each other, there was also the relationships the children had with the adults around them that made them so endearing and charming to me. They quickly befriend the station porter - Perks - once they develop a fascination with the railway by their house. I really loved that friendship and how they each learnt a lot from each other. Then there's the old man who the children wave to on the train as it passes each morning. That added a little element of mystery which I loved! I think the book encapusaltes what's great about children - that they say what they think with that brutal honesty and no filter and E. Nesbit has that spot on.
The book was narrated in such a brilliant way. The narrator felt friendly and really brought you as a reader into the world of the story. That voice throughout the whole book made me laugh and enjoy the experience of reading the book all the more. I just felt tremendously stupid for not realising who the narrator was sooner because on reflection it is blindingly obvious!
The story may be short but so much happens within those 200 pages. I loved that it was a collection of little adventures that the children always seemed to stumble across. There was always something going on! I knew some of the more iconic scenes from the film but even though I knew what was happening I would still be on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen and whether everyone was going to get out of it.
The book includes little poems throughout which the children are given by their mother, and I think that really added to the story. I adored the writing and how witty and charming it was. I couldn't put the story down and already I miss the characters! I'm sure there's more praise I could heap on this book but the review is getting long already. To sum up, I am so glad I decided to read this book! It's one that will live with me and I'll go back and re-read time and time again I'm sure. If you missed it growing up then I'd highly recommend giving it a go, or even if you did read it then I'd say it's worth a revisit! I'll definitely be checking out more of E. Nebit's classics for my challenge.
What to read next: The Phoenix and the Carpet by E. Nesbit, 5 Children and It by E. Nesbit
Books like this: The Story of the Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit