The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson

The Secret of Platform 13 was my first read of 2014 and the first book for #LARmonth

The Secret of Platform 13 – Eva Ibbotson
Macmillan Children’s Books, 1994

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By the beginning of January, I needed a good comfort read. And if anyone can provide comfort reads, it is Eva Ibbotson. Happily diving into the Ibbotson novel I received as a holiday present those first days of the year, I cannot say I was disappointed.

In The Secret of Platform 13 said platform at King’s Cross Station provides a portal between our world and an island for 9 days every 9 years. When the son of the king and the queen of the island disappears in the world and is unable to return to the island, the queen is devastated. A rescue party is organised nine years later to bring back the prince, among which are a wizard, an ogre, a fey, and the young hag Odge. Can they bring back the prince before the portal closes for another 9 years?

When the rescue party arrives in London, they find that the boy they are told is the prince, Raymond Trottle, is not what they expected. He is a spoilt boy who is given everything he desires by the rich lady who calls herself his mother. Meanwhile, Ben, who helps in the Trottle’s household, does all in his power to help the rescuers, and even if he wishes he could join the rescuers in going to the island he stand by his dying grandmother who he does not want to leave alone.

Admittedly, the story in The Secret of Platform 13 has its predictable qualities. There is a clear set up where the reader finds himself rooting for Ben, while Raymond is portrayed as horrible from the beginning. I find myself agreeing with Ana’s observation that she would have liked it better if the ending had been a little different. Moreover,after reading more of Eva Ibbotson’s book, particularly One Dog and His Boy, I wonder if selfish rich people are a bit of a trope in Ibbotson’s work? She has a definite view of who is “good” and “bad”, and while some privileged people (for example the king and the queen in this story) are portrayed as lovely people, it is clear that Ibbotson did not have much sympathy for rich people who become spoilt and selfish. On the one hand, who can blame her? On the other, it would be nice to see a little more shades of grey built into the narrative at times. Ana’s suggestions for an ending where inheritance is less prominent than upbringing would work wonderfully in that case, I think.

These criticisms aside, I did very much enjoy The Secret of Platform 13. It is always a joy to read Ibbotson’s work. At least part of the reason being that she integrates fantasy with our contemporary world seamlessly. There is no needless explaining; instead the world building simply is, which is something I really appreciate. Another thing I love about Ibbotson is her portrayal of children: with agency, with good intentions, and yet their slight faults.

All in all, The Secret of Platform 13 was a lovely start of the year and of this year’s Long-Awaited Reads Month.

Other Opinions: Things Mean a Lot, Yours?

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7 responses to “The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson

  1. Oh I didn’t know about this one! And yes, I think ALL of Ibbotson’s books are predictable, and have other recurring characteristics that might make us eschew them, and yet, yet, they are so hard to resist! :–) Thanks for letting me know about this one!

  2. I read this years ago now! I am pretty sure I enjoyed it though :-)

  3. I still have not read Eva Ibbotson. I did have one book by her on my TBR, but it was one of the books that got wet and muddy when we moved. One day I will get to her.

  4. Her name was mentioned in the last Nancy Pearl podcast I was listening to, an interview with a young reader, and I am now doubly reminded that I really need to give her a try. It’s disappointing when an ending doesn’t sit right, but with a favourite author one is more likely to forgive, I think.

  5. Selfish rich people are very much a theme in Eva Ibbotson’s work. I am not confident that she has ever written a book where selfish rich people do not feature. But oh well! If she is going to be black-and-white morally about anything, best it be the privilegedest people, right?

  6. I have been wanting to read Ibbotson for so long now. Have gotten as far as getting this one from the library, but then had to return it before I could get around to it. I really must get to one of her books this year!

  7. I can’t believe that I still have not read a single book by her…it’s ridiculously silly both because I just *know* in my gut that I will love her and because I actually have five or six of them on my shelves. Anyway, I’m glad your reading for the year is off to an enjoyable start!

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