Private Peaceful

Private Peaceful

infobox Book |
name = Private Peaceful
title_orig =
translator =

author = Michael Morpurgo
country = United Kingdom
language = English
series =
genre = Historical novel
publisher =
release_date = 2004
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
pages =
isbn = ISBN 0-439-63648-5
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"Private Peaceful" is a novel written by Michael Morpurgo. It is about a soldier called Thomas, or Tommo, Peaceful, who is looking back on his life from the trenches of World War I. Structurally, each chapter of the book brings the reader closer to the present. The story especially underlines the senselessness of war and inaptitude of the commanding officers.


The book was shortlisted for the children's section of the Whitbread Award (known since 2006 as the Costa Book Awards). It is also up for the young adult category for the California Young Reader Medal Award Program.


In 2005 and 2006 Michael Morpurgo presented a series of concerts called "Private Peaceful". This was a set of readings by Morpurgo and some songs and tunes by Coope Boyes and Simpson. In 1995 the trio had been commissioned to create a concert in Passchendaele church with Flemish musicians. This was released as "We're Here Because We're Here: Concert Party Passchendaele", a live album. Morpurgo had met them in September 2000 at a conference on "Children's Literature in Peace and War". He was so impressed by the songs that the trio sang that he invited them to add music to "Some Desperate Glory". This was a set of readings of war poetry devised by fanny man, and read by Jim Broadbent and others. Soon after they put together the material for "Private Peaceful".And won the Blue Peter book award.


*Tommo Peaceful
*Charlie Peaceful
*Tommo's Father (James Peaceful)
*Tommo's Mother
*Joseph Peaceful (Big Joe)
*Mr Munnings
*Miss McAllister
*The Colonel
*Grandma Wolf
*Jimmy Parsons
*Mrs Colonel
*Molly's mother
*Molly's father
*Bertha (Foxhound)
*The pilot
*Farmer Cox
*Nipper Martin
*Pete Bovey
*Bob James
*Les James
*Sergeant "Horrible" Hanley
*Captain Wilkes
*Anna (barmaid)
*Anna's father (bar manager)
*Lieutenant Buckland
*Charlie And Molly's baby (Tommo Junior)
*The Priest of Iddesleigh Church

Plot summary

Tommo reflects on his life up till now from a barn in the battlefields of France in The Great War. Each chapter begins with Tommo telling us the time, as if he is taking part in some kind of vigil, the true nature of which is revealed at the end of the book.

His first actual memory is his first day at school. His brother, Charlie, piggybacks him there. Tommo has listened to all of Charlie's fearsome tales of the strict Mr. Munnings, who runs the school and teaches the "bigguns" class. The "tiddlers" class is taught by Miss McAllister, who is much kinder. Tommo is, of course, put into the tiddlers class (Charlie's in the bigguns). In the tiddlers class, Tommo is told by Miss McAllister that his bootlaces are untied. He feels like everyone is laughing at him, and cries. Then Miss McAllister tells Molly, the oldest girl in the class, to tie his laces. She does, and afterwards, smiles at Tommo. Tommo falls in love with her immediately, and, later at playtime, he teaches himself to tie his laces.

One day at playtime Tommo gets a visit from his other brother, Big Joe, who doesn't go to school, despite being older than Charlie. Big Joe was born with meningitis, and, although physically he recovered, mentally he was handicapped for life. Big Joe is friendly, never aggressive, sings a lot, and loves animals. This time he has come to show Tommo a beautiful slow-worm. He does so, then leaves, singing Oranges and Lemons, his favourite song. Soon, up comes Jimmy Parsons, from the bigguns class, and insults Big Joe to Tommo's face. Tommo is irate and attacks Jimmy, but to no avail. Jimmy gives him a mild nose bleed. Charlie sees the fight and leaps on Jimmy, knocking him to the ground. They fight and curse, rolling around on the ground.

Meanwhile Mr. Munnings hears the noise from outside (the whole playground has come to cheer on whoever they want to win), and runs outside, in a furious rage. He separates the fighters and canes them in his office. Molly cleans up Tommo (who was luckily unnoticed by Mr. Munnings) at the water pump, then out comes Charlie and the three of them make friends. From that day on, Molly always comes home with them after the school day. Mrs. Peaceful, and Molly's parents, are fine with this (the latter because they do not like her, most likely).

One day there is a knock at the door. Mrs. Peaceful seems to have predicted this. It is the Colonel, the local landowner. He was the employer of James Peaceful, who was a forester, and owns the family's cottage. He explains that he has no reason to let them live on in the cottage, unless Mrs Peaceful takes up the job of looking after his ill wife. There really is no choice for her, so she accepts.

Days later, Mrs. Peaceful's aunt, Grandma Wolf (so called because she looks like the wolf in Grandma's clothes in the Red Riding Hood book Tommo owns), moves in and begins to look after them. She spends most of the time bullying Big Joe for not being normal, killing his collections of animals and slandering Mrs. Peaceful for not bringing her children up properly and marrying badly.

One day the trio are at the pond and Molly takes off her clothes daring Charlie to do so as well. He does, and Tommo feels left out. He, however, eventually also joins in.

Eventually the Colonel's wife dies and their mother comes home. Grandma Wolf leaves when the Colonel takes her in, as it seems he always liked her, but his wife didn't. Charlie, Tommo and Molly begin to poach the Colonel's fish, but when Molly catches scarlet fever and Tommo becomes the only lookout, after his falling asleep they get caught and punished by the Colonel.

Meanwhile Tommo becomes the only one still at school when Charlie and Molly leave and start working for the Colonel, and he feels left out. Charlie loses his job after freeing one of the Colonel's greyhounds whom he liked and the Colonel wanted to shoot.

Meanwhile it becomes obvious that Charlie is seeing Molly more, and her parents, who are strict Christians ban her from seeing him because he is 'a thieving rascal'.

Tommo becomes their go-between, delivering letters between them, but feels betrayed when he finds out that Charlie has still been seeing Molly secretly, and she is pregnant with his child. This results in her being thrown out of her house, and therefore she comes to live with the Peaceful family. Charlie and Molly soon get married.

The two boys then have to leave to join the army, or the Colonel threatens to throw them out. Charlie protects Tommo once again, as he had in school, but this time in the face of greater danger.

The officer in charge of their group of soldiers does not like Charlie, and bullies Tommo, who is underage. He decides to take it out on Charlie, bringing up his record as a troublemaker.

Tommo confides in Charlie about his secret, about how Father died and how he thinks it was his fault. Charlie says that's rubbish, and that the tree killed Father, not Tommo. He has known about this for ages because Tommo talks in his sleep.

Tommo then reveals that he has spent the previous night, which is how long he has been telling the story, awake in a barn remembering. He tells us that Charlie is going to be shot for refusing to fight, and standing up to the officer and telling him that there's no point, they'll all die. He tells it exactly as he imagines it - Charlie completely confident and unafraid, not crying or pleading, looking at the sunrise, humming Big Joe's favourite song, "Oranges and Lemons" and smiling, remembering everyone as he dies. Tommo returns to his battalion. They are all as melancholy as him, and he marches off to the Somme.

External links

* [,,1065291,00.html A review of "Private Peaceful" on the Guardian website]

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