The Railway Children by E Nesbit: a Short Review

I have got behind with writing about the books I’ve read, so this is short review as I try to ‘catch up’:

The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit. It was originally serialised in The London Magazine during 1905 and first published in book form in 1906. It’s ‘a feel good’ book about a family living in a world long gone – 1905 to be precise.

Three young children, Roberta, known as ‘Bobbie’ (12), Peter (10), and Phyllis (8) move from London to ‘The Three Chimneys’, a much smaller house in the countryside near a railway line, with their mother. Their father had mysteriously left their home in the company of two men one evening. The children don’t know where he has gone or why. Their lives are drastically changed as without their father’s income, their mother is now busy writing to earn money.

The children have lots of adventures as they explore the countryside and especially the railway line and station. They make friends with the railway staff and in particular with one of the railway passengers, who they call the ‘Old Gentleman’. They prevent a train disaster, rescue a schoolboy, who has broken his leg and is stranded in a railway tunnel, and help a Russian refugee, who is trying to find his family. But the mystery surrounding their father continues to worry the children, especially Bobbie. Thankfully there is a happy ending!

I enjoyed The Railway Children but would have loved it if I’d read it when I was a child. There’s an emphasis on friendship and on helping others in the right way, that is on the importance of giving that is not perceived as charity, for instance, to avoid wounding the pride and self respect of others. Throughout I was surprised by the amount of freedom and independence the children enjoyed and the dangers they were exposed to including walking on the railway lines!

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