Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Railway Children

Just a few days ago, I received a gift of a book from a very precious friend. The book was called "The Railway Children", by Edith Nesbit. It was written over a hundred years ago, but to me, it was new and I couldn't put it down until I finished reading. It's such a sweet, heart-warming story about a mother and her children and how they overcome the struggles of life. Several times I nearly cried while reading because it touched me so.

I imagine this book will be just as good a hundred years from now as it was a hundred years ago. I plan to hang on to it, waiting for the time Shira can read English.

I would like to share my all-favorite quote from the book, about the Mother, who was a character I found very inspirational. In a quiet, gentle way, by setting a fine example, she molds her children's souls.

"Mother did not spend all her time in playing dull calls to dull ladies, and sitting all day waiting for dull ladies to pay calls to her. She was almost always there, ready to play with her children, and read to them, and help them do their home-lessons. Besides this she used to write stories for them while they were at school, and read them aloud after tea, and she always made up funny pieces of poetry for their birthdays and for other great occasions."

What a precious gift it is, for us and for everyone involved, to be there for our children.

You can read the book online here, but I'm sticking to my paper copy. It's so much more mobile and can be easily carried into the garden or to bed, which are my two favorite places for reading.

19 comments:

Jo said...

Yes, it is a beautiful book - I have quite a collection of books from the early 1900s that my mother gave me - they are so touching.

Star said...

That story has been made into a wonderful movie too Anna. It starred Jenny Agutter. When I was in America I looked for it but didn't find it anywhere. Here in England, we have been watching it for many years. I have a copy of it but it needs an English DVD player to work. Have you every heard of that film?
Blessings, Star

casa da poesia said...

...I will sing!...

Persuaded said...

My goodness, I have never heard of this book. It looks like just the sort of thing I would greatly enjoy... I am going to go hunt up a copy for myself. Thank you so much for the recommendation, dear.

And thank you so much for stopping by yesterday and adding your thoughts and insights to the fasting discussion. It was much appreciated, and I learned a thing or two as well☺
Have a beautiful day, my dear!

Buffy said...

The film is also a great favourite of mine. They are careful to stick true to the values of the book. In fact I think most of the quote you use here is used in the film as a voiceover.

Rachel said...

I just got around to reading this book myself, and found it just as delightful as you did...of course, I spent a good bit of the time speculating over what it was that the father was supposed to have done (I figured he was in prison)...

It is amazing, the way that the news was able to be kept from the children, in that age--these days, reporters would have been camped out on the family's doorstep, dogging their every move...there would have been no peace for that struggling mother and her children....

But you are right--it is so important that we are there for our children, a 'rock of Gibraltar' in the stormy seas of life...

may said...

Buffy and Star are quite right; you need to see the film! Dinah Sheridan played Mother. It's a holiday staple in the UK; sweet and kind, but without being sickly and self-pitying.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066279/

I had a lot of Edith Nesbitt's books when I was young. You should also try "The Phoenix and the Carpet", "The Enchanted Castle", and "Five Children and It".

Anonymous said...

I read all her books as a child. I remember them vaguely as adventure novels with some magic thrown in.

I do remember feeling uncomfortable with the way she always thought girls weren't 'good enough'/strong enough/ brave enough to join the best adventures. Weird the things one remembers in old age. I wonder if I'd feel the same way were I to read the books now, or if I'd view them in the proper cultural perspective.
Tammy

Ganeida said...

How did you miss this book?! ☺ It is standard fare round here ~ as are 5 Children & It. Great title, great book. England's BBC did great mini series of both books. Don't know if they're available where you are But if I were you I'd try ~ if only for the scenery.')

Rose said...

I haven't read this book since I was a child, thanks for the memories Anna. Best wishes.

Sophie said...

Dear Mrs Anna,

I'm not sure how many classic children's books you've read, but since you've enjoyed The Railway Children (which always makes me cry SO very hard - I had it on a cassette as a little girl, and it made me appreciate my own father more), you might also like Louisa M Alcott's Little Women series, if you haven't read them. Do you know L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables books, or E. M. Prentiss's Stepping Heavenward?

The last was published in the nineteenth century. I read it because I have a copy given to my great-grandmother's sister in 1908, when she was a little girl at Sunday school. It's the lifelong journal of a young American woman becoming a wife and mother and dealing with all sorts of issues. The circumstances and language are perhaps peculiar to the time, but the emotional struggles could (and I am sure do) take place now. Your story about Becky is in quite a similar mode. Stepping Heavenward was a bestseller in its day.

I hope Shira does enjoy The Railway Children - I've never thought of it before (not having a child myself) but teaching her to read and sharing books with her will be so wonderful!

Phebe said...

It's interesting you posted this. Literally just five minutes ago, my 8 yr old was browsing the bookshelves for the next book she wants to read and she selected...you guessed it--The Railway Children!! I've loved that book for many years! Check out E.Nesbit's other writings--she was quite prolific. My all-time favorite of hers is The Bastables.

Mrs. Anna T said...

I realize that most of you ladies are familiar with this book, but I grew up reading Russian classics, so I'm discovering a whole new world here.

I'll try to look for the film. Perhaps it's available on YouTube for free. I watched so many wonderful films online for free lately, such as Emma and Anne of Green Gables.

AnneK said...

I remember reading it as a small child and couple of years back I watched the movie. I had liked the book then and when I was watching the movie, I looked up the author. She was a political activist, got pregnant out of wedlock, had an open marriage later on.

Not exactly the kind of women she was writing about!

Canadian said...

I love The Railway Children too!

I second the recommendation of Little Women and Anne of Green Gables. A lesser-known English classic I think you might enjoy is The Children of the New Forest by Captain Frederick Marryat.

I love the classics of children's literature!

Ways of Zion said...

Oh that is one of our fav books! I think I may pop upstairs and grab it for reading cuddles and hot choclate with the children today.

We are back in Canada....dreay, dull, gray and cold!

How we wish we were still in Israel!

Andrea said...

Anna, if you like Nesbit's work you may also enjoy certain of George MacDonald's stories. The Princess and the Goblin has long been a great favourite of mine-- a very sweet story. It's one I hope to share with my own children some day.

Canadian said...

Can't resist adding recommendations for classic American children's literature that I think you would also enjoy:

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (and sequels)

All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor (and sequels)

Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin

Pendragon said...

I grew up reading and re-reading E. Nesbit's books. My very favorite is The Story of the Amulet, especially the part when the children travel back in time to Roman Britain. My second favorite was The Phoenix and the Carpet.

E. Nesbit also directly inspired another one of my favorite children's authors, Edward Eager, who also wrote magical fantasy books involving gangs of children engaged in time travel and such. Great stuff and a fun way for the young to learn about history.

I know I liked The Railway Children enormously, though I can't remember much about it. I know it was less intriguing to me than her other novels because it did not involve magic (if I remember correctly).

However, I do specifically remember a line in which an adult or an older child tells a boy to take care of his sisters because girls are naturally "chicken-hearted." As you can imagine, this insulting characterization of my sex by an adored author was very upsetting to a young Pendragon. But it was a good lesson in learning to appreciate authors from other eras on their own terms and trying not to take it personally when many of those authors happen to have a degraded view of girls and women. (I am applying this lesson now as I make my way through War and Peace.)