(Ann) Philippa Pearce Marcus Crouch - Essay

Marcus Crouch

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Tom's Midnight Garden … is one of those rare, miraculously individual books which belong to no category and demand absolute acceptance from the reader. Philippa Pearce wrote here a kind of ghost story, except that the ghost was still alive, and a kind of historical novel, its period carefully concealed from the reader. (p. 198)

The concluding passages have a perfection unmatched in children's literature.

Part of the wonder of Tom's Midnight Garden lies in purely literary qualities. Philippa Pearce is a master of style. Unlike William Mayne, a greater virtuoso performer who is often carried away by the enchantment of his own skill, she is always in control. She uses words as if she had just discovered them. With them she discloses the mystery of the garden and explores in depth the complex personalities of Tom and Hatty. No one, not even E. Nesbit in the 'Arden' books, has managed better the transition from present to past….

Minnow on the Say … is an enchanting story of a treasure-hunt …, as fresh and fragile as a spring day. It is structurally disastrous. In three years Miss Pearce learnt all about her craft. The construction of Tom's Midnight Garden, its firm development, the subtle variation from episode to episode, is beyond criticism. (p. 199)

Marcus Crouch, "Self and Society," in his The Nesbit Tradition: The Children's Novel in England 1945–1970 (© Marcus Crouch 1972), Ernest Benn, 1972, pp. 196-229.∗