I hold my hand up and admit that I love the BBC film version and have done since I was little. I watched it every Christmas and I don't mind admitting that the end brings a wee tear to my eye even now. A few years back a friend of mine (the devourer of all children's books) was horrified to discover that I hadn't read it. As we were book shopping for our holiday at the time she forced me (almost broke my arm) to buy it there and then. It has since collected dust on my pile. As it's been a while since I have read a children's book and I needed something light after Anna Karenina I decided to pick it up. This was the perfect book for my mood.
If you are looking for an uplifting read then this is it. Despite the upset of the children's father leaving it's an cheery read. Every chapter reveals a good ending to a great adventure or a good dead. Mr Perks, the station porter, is a firm favourite of the children as he is their first friend in the country. He quickly became a favourite of mine too (helped along by the image of Bernard Cribbons who played the character in the film). Even the crotchety neighbours couldn't help but fall in love with these children with hearts of gold. That's not to say that they were irritatingly good. They squabbled and had their faults.
There are points in it that are a little annoying such as the Doctors view of the differences between men and women (women are weaker and softer so they don't hurt their babies). But since it was published in 1905 I took those minor faults with a pinch of salt. In the end it's a genuinely sweet story. I confess that I had to give up reading it in public today and finish it at home. I felt myself welling up as I got to the end and knew what was about to happen. My only regret is that I didn't read this as a child. I know if I had it would have been up there with The Secret Garden and Little Women as a favourite.