Tom’s Midnight Garden is a children’s fantasy novel by Philippa Pearce. It was first published in 1958 by Oxford with illustrations by Susan Einzig. It has been reissued in print many times and also adapted for radio, television, the tom’s midnight garden pdf, and the stage.
Pearce won the annual Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year’s outstanding children’s book by a British subject. In 2007, for the 70th anniversary celebration of the award, a panel named it one of the top ten Medal-winning works and the British public elected it the nation’s second-favourite.
At night he slips back in time to the old garden where he finds a girl playmate. When Tom Long’s brother Peter gets measles, Tom is sent to stay with his Uncle Alan and Aunt Gwen. They live in an upstairs flat of a big house with no garden, only a tiny yard for parking. The former grounds of the big house have been sold for building and are occupied by modern houses.
The elderly and reclusive landlady, Mrs Bartholomew, lives above them. Because Tom may be infectious, he is not allowed out to play, and he feels lonely.
Without exercise he lies awake after midnight, restless, when he hears the communal grandfather clock strangely strike 13. He gets up to investigate and discovers that the back door now opens on a large sunlit garden.
Every night the clock strikes 13 and Tom returns to the Victorian era grounds. There he meets another lonely child, a girl called Hatty, and they become inseparable playmates. Tom contrives to extend the stay with Aunt and Uncle.
Finally she grows up at a faster rate, until she is an adult she is courting an acquaintance of hers, Barty. At this stage in the book, the season in the old garden tends to be winter. Tom ingeniously obtains ice skates by having Hatty conceal her old pair in his room, where he subsequently finds them and joins her skating on the next night.
On the final night before Tom is due to go home, he goes downstairs to find the garden is not there. He desperately tries to run around and find it, but crashes into a set of bins from the present day courtyard, waking up several residents.
He shouts Hatty’s name in disappointment, before his Uncle Alan finds him and puts the events down to Tom sleepwalking. The following morning, Mrs Bartholomew summons Tom to apologise, only to reveal herself as Hatty, having made the link when she heard him call her name.
On the final night, she had instead been dreaming of her wedding with Barty. After taking Tom home, Aunt Gwen comments on the strange way that Tom had said goodbye to Mrs Bartholomew when he left: he hugged her, as if she were a little girl. The book is regarded as a classic but it also has overtones that permeate other areas of Pearce’s work. We remain in doubt for a while as to who is the ghost, there are questions over the nature of time and reality and we end by believing that the midnight garden is a projection from the mind of an old lady.
The final reconciliation between Tom, still a child and the elderly Hatty is, many have argued, one of the most moving moments in children’s fiction. 2011 repeated it, in a retrospective review of the novel.