‘The Railway Children’ by E Nesbit


First published in 1906, this classic of children’s literature tells the story of a mother and her three children who are forced to move to a cheaper house after her husband is arrested on charges of spying. Their new home is a country cottage close to a railway station where, along with such characters as the surly porter Mr Perks, an Old Gentleman who waves at them from the train and a mysterious Russian who falls ill at the station, the three kids soon find plenty to amuse themselves. Their missing father, however, is a constant concern, for the eldest child, Roberta, who doesn’t understand why they can’t all be together.

Having originally bought this in paperback, I found the type face far too small to read comfortably, so ended up buying an eBook version too. Though some of the language is a little old-fashioned, the book is a delightful and easy read that brought back memories of the original film version (starring Jenny Agutter, Sally Thomsett and Gary Warren as the children). The ebook edition (Puffin, bought from Kobo) includes a glossary of some of the more obscure terms used in the book, as well as information about the author and a bibliography.

Edith (Daisy) Nesbit was a bit of a tomboy with particular ideas about behaviour and human rights. Her forthright views often seep into the story, demonstrating that, for the time, she had a remarkably openminded attitude to children and their upbringing.

A delightful book that that took me back to the days when steam trains used to run past the bottom of our garden at home.

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