The Railway Children by E. Nesbit *****


I did not read The Railway Children when I was a child. Nor did I see the film. All that I knew was that there was a scene in the movie where Jenny Agutter waved a red flag at a train to stop it, with some other children.

My new writing project is all about trains, and so I immediately picked up this pretty pink hardback edition of the classic and set about reading it. I don't know what I thought it would be. If I'm honest, probably dull, fusty, written using antiquated language with some Famous Five type children and some trains. I was wrong. So wrong.

This book is about family, and bravery and decency and of all things, socialism. Oh goodness, how I loved it. I loved the children, Bobbie, Phyllis and Peter. They squabble and are ghastly to each other, and love each other desperately a moment later, just as real children do. And the railway is the wonderful device around which the whole book hinges, and is described in delicious detail.

Yes, some of the language is old-fashioned. E. Nesbit has a strange habit of breaking the fourth wall to skip bits she thinks aren't of interest, or that the characters wouldn't like us to know about, which both hurls the reader out of the story, yet makes us feel the characters to be all the more real.

What I wasn't prepared for was how much I grew to care about this fictional family and how much I wept at the end. Of course, you have probably read this book and are nodding, but if like me you haven't, then you are in for a treat.