Goodnight Mr Tom is a novel by Michelle Magorian. It follows a young boy, William Beech, who is evacuated from London during the blitz of World War 2, and put into the car of Tom Oakley, an elderly recluse. Thanks to Tom, William Beech is able to experience a new life and loving care.
Two musicals based on the book have been written and a film has been made. There is also a new play of goodnight Mr Tom, adapted for the stage by national children’s dramatist David Wood, opening in early 2011.
As Britain stands on the brink of the World War 2, many young children from the cities are sent into the countryside to escape the German bombardment.
William “Willie” Beech, a boy from London, is one of these children. An unhappy, deprived child, he finds kindness in the home of Mr Thomas Oakley, a widower in his sixties who lives in the village of Little Weirwold. The book is set between September 1939 and the spring of 1941.
The protagonist, William, is a child who is physically and emotionally abused by his violent and religious mother, who was widowed some years earlier. He arrives at Toms house, a thinly clad, underfed and covered with painful bruises, and believing he is full of sin, a result of his upbringing by his mother who inflicts severe punishments and uses such as “if you do such a thing, you will go to hell” and “that is a sin”.
However, Mr Tom, as William calls him, does not punish William as bad as his mother had. Tom shows him an understanding he has not previously experienced. Although William wets the bed for some time after moving into the house, Tom merely helps him change the bedding without complaint. Having seen Williams bruises, and realising that William comes from an abusive home, Tom helps the boy through many challenges and gives him a really healthy, happy home. Willie is addressed as “William” by Tom and “Will” by his friends. William Beech is improving and progressing a lot with the help and...