Monday, October 14, 2013

Classics Book Review: The Railway Children

The Railway Children
by Edith Nesbit (1905)

The Railway Children (book).jpg

I’m working my way through the books by Edith Nesbit on my Kindle :) – the book cover here was copied from Wikipedia.

This story is about two brothers and two sisters who are suddenly uprooted from their previous comfortable life in a town house with both their parents, to go and live with only their mother in the countryside, under much poorer circumstances than before. Their father has suddenly had to go away; but the children get no real explanation of why or whereto or for how long, until near the end of the book. They soon understand that Mother prefers not to talk about it, and learn not to ask questions. Mother is also suddenly very busy writing stories for publication; which means that the children are often left to amuse themselves best they can on their own.

As their house is close to the railway, this becomes their main source of adventures. They make friends with the staff at the railway station, and they also get in the habit of waving to the people on a special train that goes by daily – especially to one old gentleman; with whom they later on get closer acquainted, to their mutual advantage.

Perhaps needless to say, after certain complications all ends well, and at the end mysteries are explained and questions answered, to the satisfaction of all involved.

I’d say that in many ways this is a rather typical children’s book for its time. Personally I enjoyed Nesbit’s  ‘Psammead’ series more, as those books offer the reader more of an intriguing interpretation challenge, balancing between children’s imagination and “real” magic – and with a lot of humour, too.

From historical point of view, The Railway Children bears witness about the impact of the railway back in those days, though.

According to Wikipedia, the book has been dramatised several times (between 1951 and 2000) for radio, TV and film.

Amusingly, when googling the book title, one of the results that came up was an article from The Telegraph 11 July 2013, stating that:

After more than 40 years, the board responsible for classifying films in Britain receives its first complaint about classic film The Railway Children. [from 1970]

A viewer raised concerns with the BBFC about the danger of depicting children playing on railway tracks, in what was the first complaint received by the BBFC since the Railway Children was classified U in 1970, a rating which means it is generally suitable for children aged four and over.

David Cooke, director of the BBFC said the film had "always been a U on every platform." In the board's annual report it said it judged that as the Railway Children is set in the Edwardian period, access to trains was very different from today, and also the film showed the “potential harm to children if proper care is not taken” near railways.

11 comments:

  1. Sounds really interesting. You still liked it though?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I liked it "well enough", Mersad, for a children's book from the early 1900s. I found those with a touch of magic more "fun", though. And somehow I find that the element of magic often serves to make books seem more timeless. This one is more sort of bound to its own time. (I'd be curious to know how it would be perceived by modern day children. After all I'm 58 now and not really the age the book was ever aimed at!)

      Delete
  2. i like the cover, the antique look of it... and i love railroads and we played on one when i was small.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sandra, for me it made me think of my dad; he grew up in a house by the railway, and railways and steam trains remained his fascination throughout his life.

      Delete
  3. You and I have been on about Edith Nesbit's books before, and so you won't be surprised to know that I liked "The Railway Children" when I read them as a child. I want to (and am going to) re-read this book and am looking forward to compare what I remember with what the book is like for me now.

    So typical, that article from The Telegraph of this year :-D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That will be interesting, Meike. Some of the books I read in childhood I still like to reread; while I grew out of others - like the Enid Blyton books.

      Delete
  4. I would like to read her books, thanks for the review. I believe C.S. Lewis liked them too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure Lewis picked some inspiration from Nesbit's "magic" ones, Terra.

      Delete
  5. I was an old-fashioned child and really, REALLY loved this book. In fact I'd go so far as to say it helped influence who I am. I saw one of the movie versions recently and was impressed at its feeling of authenticity (even including that sense of 'don't ask about Father' you refer to). Thanks for bringing up significant memories!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm now getting curious to see the film version as well, Katherine! :)

      Delete
  6. Oh - fabulous book! I enjoyed the film as well.

    ReplyDelete

Communication is what makes blogging fun :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...