The Railway Children - A Very Personal Reflection

>> Friday, August 17, 2007

At 19, when one is supposed to be reading Dostoevsky and ruminating on Kafka's works (I attempted to do both with very minor success), I still remain in denial that, at this age, The First Term at Malory Towers does not really make an appropriate reading material. Maybe I just chanced to retain the child in me or, more plausibly, the child in me has kidnapped the part of my brain which should feed me information about my mental and spiritual growth and is doing cannibalistic ritual dances on it. However, the moot point is, one of my best beloved books happens to be a children's classic and I type this reflection proudly, sheltering under a hope that my readers, a population of possibly five people at most, will agree with me.

For people unfamiliar with the book, Edith Nesbit's The Railway Children is about a family of three children and almost perfect parents whose life is transformed after their father mysteriously disappears. They face the fear of poverty, change homes, and, the most wonderful bit of all, get acquainted with the railway running near their new cottage. How their lives are intertwined with the railway and the friends they make there, their adventures and misadventures, and how it all becomes a process of growing up is what the book is about.

This is not a review. I cannot be presumptuous enough to review a book I loved as a kid, still love when I am pretending to be a kid, and hope some day my kids love it too. Though if my kids are anything like me, they would certainly prefer The Criminal's Manual to Lock Picking. This is just a very unsuccessful attempt to share the sheer magic of innocence and charm of a lost tribe of childhood. This is about a time when kids actually went and explored places when they had nothing to do-an Enid Bytonian era of childhood. A phase unknown to most people. Though what attracts you most is that there is no heavy morality, no adventures with smugglers who are apparently found at every nook if you are a band of at least four kids and a dog with ESP. At least that is the impression Enid Blyton gave me. For heaven's sake, 21 adventures!! All they did was make a plan to have a picnic, and whoa, suddenly there is a bunch of thugs looking for hidden treasures or Uranium five paces from there picnic spots.

Mind it, I love the Famous Five. Its just that I am mildly jealous of their luck.

What they do is what mostly every kid dreams of doing. The kind of dreams the BFG blows in the twilight hour. Stopping a train from accident, saving babies from burning buildings. Yet, more than bravery, what touches me is the other emotions explained here. The terrifying doubt of failure, the embarrassment at being felicitated, yet, an anticipation for it, the self recrimination, the childish attempts to make good, an undying belief in the goodness of others and the ability to love selflessly.

The Author's favourite character Bobbie wins my heart very time I read it. The unselfish love for her mother, the maturity of the young mind, the generous and impetuous actions and a brave little heart creates a little girl, not nauseatingly perfect, but lovingly real and beloved.

The story itself holds no mystery. There is no thrill of a suspense, no part where you grip the book in chilled anticipation. The charm of the book lies in the hearts of the children, who live in a world of their own, where their is imagination, adventures and friendship which blends easily with their trials in real lives-the boredom of lessons, the lack of playmates, the strain of work and, of course, the absence of their Father. Thus a book is made, where children are children, not young moral heroes, where they make mistakes and learn from them, where they have accidents, where the mother is a wonderful figure of motherhood, morally upright but with a sense of humour, where she is both understanding and generously loving, where, after all said and done, she is a beloved mother, like mothers everywhere.

Why do I suggest the book to a world of adults out there? I don't. Its a part of my childhood and hope it was a part of yours.

4 scaly flippers:

Anonymous 1:21 am, August 22, 2007  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
WHAT'S IN A NAME ? 9:57 am, September 08, 2007  

r readers ? 'five' did I hear u say ??? Make that a SIX now.

Angry Voices 4:21 pm, September 27, 2007  

And supermen gave us their powers in any random towel or scarf. A plastic knife doubled up as sword or any garnet ring to save the Planet.

You're on a memory evoking trip. :)

new age scheherazade 10:58 pm, November 29, 2007  

oh oh oh. you are SO kindred i'm going orgasmic. Montgomery and nesbit?? fabulous.
what about the wouldbegoods? and the psammead?
and the blue castle?

  © Blogger template Shiny by 2008

Back to TOP