When you read a time travel book, you know someone’s going to die. That’s just how history works: everyone died at some point or another. If you go back and talk to them, they may seem alive, but from your point of view they’re long dead.
When I read “Tom’s Midnight Garden,” and joined Tom as he traveled back through time to a Victorian garden and Victorian world, perhaps the greatest sorrow I had reading was one never outright stated in the book. I knew that these people were dead, but Tom’s perspective kept him from understanding it.
What Tom learns to understand over the course of the novel is Time. The changes that time brings, the joys and sorrows, aren’t something we are born knowing. We have to learn them. And we have to learn about how love survives when faced with an enemy as implacable as time. Or perhaps, what we really learn is how time can make love all the more precious.