Lately I have been making up for lost time. Growing up, I have missed out on a lot of children’s classics. The Railway Children is one of them.
The Railway Children written by Edith Nesbit was serialised in The London Magazine in 1905. It was published in book form in 1906.
After their father is sent to prison, siblings Bobbie (Roberta), Peter and Phyllis along with their mother move into a house near a railway station. The railway station soon becomes the focus of the children’s lives as they become friendly with the local people and the mysterious ‘Old Gentleman’ who always rides the 9:15 down train.
I liked how the children in the book seem real. They do have a lot of adventures and are at times insufferably good but they are also impatient and immature a lot of the time. Things like their everyday fights and trivial shenanigans are also given importance in the narrative. Like the exchange between Peter and Bobbie after Peter gets hurt during their fight over a rake or Phyllis’s honest (and often hilarious) thoughts and opinions on things,
‘He called me un-un-ungentlemanly,’ sobbed Phyllis. ‘I didn’t never call him unladylike, not even when he tied my Clorinda to the firewood bundle and burned her at the stake for a martyr.’
Nesbit was accused of plagiarism in 2011. Apparently a lot of the plot points of The Railway Children were very similar to that of The House by the Railway (1896) by Ada J. Graves. These accusations notwithstanding, I would love to read more of Nesbit’s books, particularly The Enchanted Castle.
Even though I might have enjoyed children’s classics such as The Railway Children more if I really were a child, I do still find joy in them. Other than a few parts (like the chapter The Pride of Perks) I have greatly enjoyed reading The Railway Children.