The latest book from the ever popular Michael Morpurgo is inspired by events from his own childhood in a quaint English seaside village. The main character, Michael, returns home after fifty years and is soon absorbed in memories both happy and deeply sad. He recalls his friend Mrs Pettigrew, who came from Thailand after meeting her botanist husband to make Bradwell her home. The couple set about creating a ‘perfect paradise’ of their very own in the marshy coastal land, making their home in an old Pullman train carriage. After the tragic loss of her husband in an accident, Mrs Pettigrew lived alone with her three dogs and her donkey. But the tranquillity of their existence was disturbed by plans to build a nuclear reactor on the very site of her home. These plans divided the villagers, ending with only Michael’s mother left supporting Mrs Pettigrew.
As we have come to expect from Michael Morpurgo, this story is both beautifully written and utterly compelling. I read it in one sitting – it was just too poignant and moving to put down. The environmental message is strong, with warnings about the dangers of nuclear power and the blight left on the landscape when reactors are shut down. The tale of Mrs Pettigrew, who rescues Michael from bullies but is unable to rescue herself, is heartbreaking, but there is a certain comfort in seeing how the memory of her strength of character and innate goodness has remained with Michael into adulthood. Peter Bailey’s beautiful illustrations, with a keen attention to detail, help give the book a warmly old-fashioned feel.