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Midnight is a Place

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  835 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews

Lucas Bell is lonely and miserable at Midnight Court, a vast, brooding house owned by his intolerable guardian, Sir Randolph Grimsby. When a mysterious carriage brings a visitor to the house, Lucas hopes he’s found a friend at last. But the newcomer, Anna Marie, is unfriendly and spoiled—and French. Just when Lucas thinks things can’t get any worse, disastrous circumstance
Paperback, 304 pages
Published October 28th 2002 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published 1974)
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Joan Aiken is a master at creating atmosphere, and Midnight Is a Place is no exception; the book could well be called a Gothic novel for children, with its orphaned hero (and heroine), disagreeable guardian, mysterious events, and gloomy setting.

Lucas Bell, an orphan, lives with his guardian, Sir Randolph Grimsby, and his tutor, Julian Oakapple, in an old mansion called Midnight Court. Soon after the arrival of Anna Marie, another orphan and the grandchild of the previous owner of Midnight Cour
Hank Horse
Dec 16, 2007 Hank Horse rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya-kids
I am on a major Joan Aiken kick.

I am amazed by much of what she does: strong-willed & smart young protagonists, dizzying plots, a delight in language including excellent cockney slang, a fine historical sense for detail, and the occasional odd metaphysical touch such as telepathy or Arthurian legends come to life. What a genius! I have enjoyed everything I've read by her, and am pleased she was so prolific because there's so much left to explore.

This book finds her in a more restrained Dick
Kate Forsyth
Feb 28, 2016 Kate Forsyth rated it it was amazing
Joan Aiken is one of my all-time favourite children’s writers. Her books were out-of-print for a while and I haunted second-hand bookshops in the hopes of building up my collection.

My copy of this wonderful book was bought from the Glebe Library years ago, and still has its yellow cardboard filing card in an envelope glued inside the front cover.

Happily, her books have all recently been re-issued with fabulous new covers and so are easy to get hold of now.

It’s difficult to exactly categorise
Hilary Woolf
Apr 19, 2015 Hilary Woolf rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourite-books
We have read this book together many times and agree it's our all time favourite book. A feel good book to read aloud by the fire. Twice orphaned children endure hardship and adventure. We love the scenes of the carpet factory and listening with horror to the occupation of toshing with man eating hogs. The sanctuary of the ice house and interweaving storylines fall beautifully into place.
May 15, 2009 Lobstergirl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childhood
90 years after I read it, the image of the carpet-making machine and the child labor used to pick blobs of yarn off the carpets still haunts me.
Jul 15, 2013 Linden rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Linden by: Oolookitty
THIS is the book I read in Grade 7 that I've been searching for for years! I owe a huge thank-you to GoodReads member Oolookitty who steered me this way after I posted a review of A Chance Child. She recognized the carpet scene I'd remembered from my childhood. It was as nailbiting to read as it was when I was younger, from the winding sewer passages to the factory floor.

A Midnight Place is really a delight to read, with Dickensian themes of orphans and industrial England, showcasing hardships a
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
Joan Aiken continues her proto-steampunk adventures for children. Less silly than the Willoughby Chase series (no one bounces ten feet in the air on a windowseat cushion, for example), the standard Aiken universe is still in place--a place called Midnight. Plucky kids are still being done out of their homes and inheritance by unscrupulous adults. Good folks still live underground. And industry is still a bad thing, although in this book we are told as much right out loud, as Grandmere and Mr Oak ...more
Oct 01, 2012 Eleni rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book in a second hand shop when I was about ten and was captivated from start to finish. I don't think it's too harsh and gloomy at all. As a child I loved reading about the tough challenges that Lucas and Anna-Marie face as they try to make their way through the world. I still reread it every few years and enjoy it as much as ever. I think it's important for children to read about characters who have difficult lives. A lot of real life children face all sorts of challenges and ...more
Jun 29, 2008 Cindy rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: no one
Two orphans who don't even like each other at first are thrown together after their house burns down, their guardian dies, and their tutor is injured in the fire. (What a start!) Lucas and Anna Marie have to find a place to live, a place to work, and avoid the local gang. This is set in a very dark version of Victorian England, and both children wind up going through some really terrible things.

I have read books by this author before, and she often deals with dark themes. What bothered me about
Sep 15, 2011 Tracy rated it it was amazing
I adore this book, I've reread it many times and every time I read it I still love it. Something about her whimsical use of language, her Dickensian names and themes (I'm embarrassed a bit but I love Joan Aiken a lot more than Dicken's actually). Anyhow this is definitely one of my favourites.
Tabitha Suzuma
Feb 03, 2013 Tabitha Suzuma rated it it was amazing
One of my favourite childhood authors.
Alex Nye
May 13, 2012 Alex Nye rated it it was amazing
I first read this book when I was about 8 or 9 years old, and then somehow or other I must have lost the copy - because as an adult I could never remember the title of it, but it always haunted me as a story which I fell in love with. Then, about 7 or 8 years ago, when I happened to describe it to a friend, they said 'you mean Midnight is a Place by Joan Aiken.' So I bought a new copy, and re-read it - again and again. I would say that it's probably one of the most influential children's books I ...more
Books Kids Like
Oct 06, 2013 Books Kids Like rated it really liked it
Shelves: aiken-joan
In the town of Blastburn, England, stands a dark mansion called Midnight Court. Midnight Mill, the town’s carpet factory, darkens the sky with its smoke. Gloom and hardship became a way of life to the millworkers when years before, the Murgatroyd family lost both the town and the factory to Sir Randolph. Young Lucas Bell endures a dismal existence at Midnight Court. His father, who had been Sir Randolph's business partner, is dead. Sir Randolph is an embittered drunkard who pays him scant attent ...more
Kirsti (Melbourne on my mind)
Plot summary: Lucas Bell lives in a gloomy house with no one but his bad-tempered guardian and tutor for company. But when someone else comes to live at Midnight Court, things are about to change forever.

Thoughts: I LOVED Joan Aiken's books as a kid. They were a big part of what got me interested in history and the Victorian era more specifically. The characters weren't nearly as wonderful as I remembered them being, and the story contains quite a lot of deaths. But then again, it's set in 1842
Tina Smith
This is a historical fiction my kids and I really enjoyed. A little slow to start, but it got better after the fire.

We read this because it was recommended by our history curriculum as a supplement to our learning about the Industrial Revolution. It was a great way to bring that time to life for my kids, who happen to be the same ages as the kids in the story, 8 and 12!

Two orphan children live with their guardian in England, who is not a very nice man. After a fire destroys their home, they are
Oct 18, 2016 SarahC rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-readers
Everything I have read of Joan Aiken so far could be termed an instant classic. Her work stands above the crowd and gives adults and young readers alike something to savor.

Her Wolves of Willoughby grouping of books (they are not actually a series) is earthy, old-fashioned, wise, dreadful and dangerous.

Within these stories her language is delicious, with characters who get "March-mad" and who are "flinthearts," and we are warned "not to punch a tax official nor call him a scrimshanked blatherski
May 09, 2012 Emily rated it it was ok
I am a huge fan of Joan Aiken, but this story has plenty of clunky-ness.

On the flip side, a clunky Joan Aiken novel still offers many positives: the character of Lady Murgatroyd is a great one for neurotic adults to think about. She can let kids try out solutions without overreacting or micromanaging. Aiken also illustrates the real risks of some common behaviors--like if someone is overly stubborn, or if another person is too self-righteous. I appreciated how she leaves larger societal/philoso
Nicole Beck
Jul 04, 2011 Nicole Beck rated it really liked it
I read this book at a young age. How or where I aquired it is anyone's guess. But I remember very distinctly how I felt the first time I finished it. It was past midnight, everything was quiet, the room was pitch dark around the edges. After closing the book, I felt a wave of disorientation, almost fear. It lingered on with me and made sleep difficult. For a long time after it, I didn't even want to touch the book again.
This, I think, is a testament to Aiken's abilty to create tone.
Four stars
Feb 10, 2008 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The plot and attitude of this book have a definite Lemony Snicket feel. I researched a bit to see if Aiken was one of Daniel Handler's influences and couldn't find any proof of it, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if she were.
Mar 07, 2008 Faith rated it really liked it
Really I can't say it is a 5 star until I am done reading it. I really like it so far though. It is not a joke book. Joan Aiken is a very dark writer. It is very cute though, the relationships between the two main characters.
Jul 01, 2008 Thorn rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: joan aiken fans, people who feel like dickens, but without the commitment.
Recommended to Thorn by: found it by accident. (was already a crazy fan of the 'wolves' b
this book is incredibly suspenseful, and fascinating food for the imagination. i highly recommend it.
Jan 01, 2012 Catherine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
This book reminds me of Dicken's Hard Times and Secret Garden. The focus is on the dangers of the early industrial age.
Cyndi Smith
Jan 08, 2017 Cyndi Smith rated it liked it
Years and years ago i read this ... oh my, a million years ago ...
Caroline Bennett
I had read this before (in school 25 years ago) but only remembered one scene. Did remember enjoying it though and thought it deserved another read. It starts slowly, events on the back cover (presented as the premise) only happen half way through which is a big bugbear of mine. Then it picks up and the themes are very interesting.

It is a bit telling not showing in places but being a children's book that's a common enough device. I don't think it needs it though, the unfairness of the poverty an
Mar 01, 2011 Sharlene rated it really liked it
Shelves: children
I did not know that Joan Aiken had written many books. As a child, I only owned (and loved) the Wolves of Willoughby Chase.

I was sick last week, so I read this for pure rest and relaxation. I loved how it had bits of french sprinkled into its pages. The characters are pleasantly created, though the situations they are found in are rather depressing. Lots of mean people/characters in this book, and some difficult situations.

As I was reading it, there were a few quotes and bits of writing that I
May 22, 2014 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I started this book I wasn't at all sure I was going to like it as I am not a big fan of historical novels. How wrong was I! I took to Lucas right away as he is so lovely and little Anna-Marie even though she is a bit whingy to star,t her character develops brilliantly and I absolutely love her by the end. It is fairly harrowing in places when Lucas has to become a "tosher" and you feel so sorry for him but the story becomes so hopeful and sweet when they discover the Ice-House. This should ...more
Oct 23, 2011 Sarah rated it really liked it
I really wish I had written a review right after reading this book. I can tell you it was spectacular and vivid, and what impressed me most was that the writer was an excellent writer without needing to shove it in your face. Her style was simple, and beautiful in its simplicity--unlike some other authors who really want to make sure you know just how clever they are. Additionally, the book was very well researched. If you ever wanted to know what it would be like to be an orphan on the streets ...more
Sep 27, 2016 Nigel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens-ya
Some Joan Aiken books are perfect for when the days get colder and shorter, and this is one. Abandoned impoverished orphans thrown out into the the cold and the snow to survive while surrounded by villainy. In this case it's Lucas and Anna Maria, under the guardianship of the horrible Sir Randolph, who owns a particularly dark and satanic mill in the dark and satanic town of Blastburn. Lucas and Anna Maria seek employment, not too hard to come by since child labour is all the rage, the more disg ...more
Feb 22, 2008 Tracie rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-school
After his parents die, Lukas is sent to live with an alcoholic, gambling miser. His only companions an emotionally distant tutor and the few servants who will give him any company. Things go from bad to worse for Luke when eight-year-old Anna-Marie is sent to live with them as well. After a tragic fire the children are once again orphaned and must learn to fend for themselves in the dismal town of Blastburn. A Dickens-like tale for a younger audience, Joan Aiken never disappoints. Four and a ha ...more
Jun 28, 2013 Sharon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book - the atmosphere Aitken manages to create is awesome and she brings every character to life on the page. It's a little dark and scary at times for a children's book, mind you I'm sure children deal with a lot worse these days. The writing is some of the best you will find in the children's genre. My old hardback copy has some excellent illustrations in it too - something to treasure.
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Joan Aiken was a much loved English writer who received the MBE for services to Children's Literature. Her most famous classic, THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE has been in print for over 50 years with a new AUDIO recorded by her daughter Lizza. She was known as a writer of wild fantasy, Gothic novels and unforgettable short stories.
NEW COLLECTION 2016 - The People in The Castle https://www.goodread
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“Night's winged horses
No one can outpace
But midnight is no moment
Midnight is a place.

Meet me at Midnight,
Among the Queen Anne's Lace
Midnight is not a moment,
Midnight is a place—

When, when shall I meet you
When shall I see your face
For I am living in time at present
But you are living in space.

Time is only a corner
Age is only a fold
A year is merely a penny
Spent from a century's gold.

So meet me, meet me at midnight
(With sixty seconds' grace)
Midnight is not a moment;
Midnight is a place.”
More quotes…