Check out the Pride Celebration Treasure Hunt!
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Mariana by Monica Dickens

Mariana (1940)

by Monica Dickens

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5022230,735 (3.92)80



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 80 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
This may be the loveliest opening to a novel that I have ever read.

“Mary sometimes heard people say: ‘I can’t bear to be alone.” She could never understand this. All her life she had needed the benison of occasional solitude, and she needed it now more than ever. If she could not be with the man she loved, then she would rather be by herself.”

It captured my own feelings perfectly, and expressed them more beautifully than I ever could.

Mary escaped to the country with just her small terrier dog, Bingo, in tow. Her husband was at sea, in the navy, and the country was at war. Because she wanted to be quiet, to remember, to think.

It was lovely watching Mary and Bingo settle in, lovely to be reminded of the depth of Monica Dickens’ understanding of character and of her talent for catching exactly the right details to paint a perfect picture.

I was particularly taken with her understanding that a terrier can be sound asleep and alert at the same time …

The peaceful scene was disturbed when Mary switched on the wireless, when she heard that her husband’s ship had been hit. There were survivors, there was hope, but Mary had a night to get through before she found out the next morning if her husband was alive or dead.

It was a sleepless night, and as she lay awake Mary turned over memories in her mind.

She remembered her childhood, with a mother who had been widowed in the last war and who worked as a dressmaker to support them. Her husband’s family would have helped but she didn’t want to be beholden to them. It was enough that they gave Mary lovely, idyllic summer holidays in the country. And a place in a bigger family.

She remembered going to drama school with grand plans, and coming to realise that she was on the wrong path. Fashion college in Paris was a much better idea. She could have a lovely time and she could play a part in the family business. Mary had a wonderful time in Paris, and she made a marvellous catch. But even the most marvellous catch is not necessarily the right catch.

Mary found her happy ending back in England, at the most unexpected moment.

Now it has to be said that Mary is not the most sympathetic of characters. She is often awkward, thoughtless, selfish even. But she was real, and for all her failing I did like her, I did want her to find her path in life, her place in the world. Sometimes fallible heroines are so much easier to love.

And Mary was real, alive, and her emotional journey was so utterly real. There were highs and lows, tears and laughter. Every emotion a young woman might go through. And so many incidents, so many moments to recollect.

All of this was observed so beautifully, with understanding, intelligence, and just the right amount of empathy.

But if Mary’s life was the foreground, the background was just as perfectly realised. Her world was as alive as she was, and every character who was part of that word, even if only for a short while, was caught perfectly.

I loved watching over Mary’s life. It was an ordinary life, but every ordinary life is unique and Monica Dickens highlighted that quite beautifully.

And I could have stayed in her world quite happily, but morning eventually came, and Mary had to face whatever news of her husband might come. And when it came I had to leave.

I’d love to know what happened in the next chapters of Mary’s life, but failing that I’ll go back and read about the years I know all over again one day. Because this is a lovely book, and a lovely way to get lost in another life and another world. ( )
  BeyondEdenRock | Nov 1, 2018 |

Originally posted here

It was impressive for me to have finished this book considering I found it insufferably boring. The book opens with the main character Mary, it's during World War 2 and she has just found out that a military vessel has sunk and she has no idea whether her husband is one of the rescued or a casualty. It is the middle of the night and there just so happens to be a violent storm so the telephone lines are down and she has to wait until morning before she can find out anything. The story flashes back from that point to tell Mary's entire life story from childhood; I found the reading experience to be about as interesting as watching paint dry.

I do usually enjoy character driven plots but Mariana made me realise that I prefer the main character to go through some sort of hardship in order for it to be compelling to me. Mary experiences no hardship whatsoever, she maybe broke a nail one time or something equally ridiculous. There was nothing about her life that interested me in the slightest. Actually, her brief relationship with Pierre was probably the only part that I enjoyed and that was half a chapter.

There is a lot of cutting and bitchy commentary throughout the entire book, Mary is constantly judging other girls. She is harsh about their looks, weight, intelligence and even slut shames some poor girl because she had a passionate embrace with her fiancé on a bench at a party. I understand this book was originally published in 1940, but still - I guess some things never change. Mary's vitriol is even turned against herself as she buys a dress that is too small and then is full of self-loathing because one of the seams keeps popping open. Mary spends a good majority of the whole book just bemoaning at how fat she is. That is honestly as interesting as the story gets.

I found Mary to be self-absorbed, living in a privileged bubble, spoiled and vapid. She did not have a single interesting thought during the entire book. The other characters just blended into one and I really regret wasting my time struggling to finish it as it never redeemed itself. The biggest disappointment of the year so far. ( )
  4everfanatical | Sep 19, 2016 |
Mary Shannon has gone away to brood while her husband is at war in WW II. During a storm she hears on the radio that her husband's ship has gone down; frantically, she tries to telephone to get news, but her line is down. During the long night, she remembers her life from about age 8, and it is part coming of age and part becoming her own person. This is the second novel by Monica Dickens, the great- granddaughter of Charles Dickens, and she said that it was semi-autobiographical.

Part of this book gripped me more than others. I did root for Mary, even if she was often self-centered; I think that is a natural part of most children's development, and if she didn't get out of it as early as many of us think she should have, just look around at how many self-centred teens and early twenties people there are today.

As far as women authors went, Monica Dickens was only outsold at that time by Daphne du Maurier, however, her work hasn't remained as popular over time. I haven't read du Maurier for years, so can't give a good comparison as to why, but I do think it's a shame she's so little known now. I didn't love this book, although I suspect that when I was younger I'd have liked it more. ( )
  Karin7 | Feb 14, 2016 |
3.5 ( )
  Joana_v_v | Feb 9, 2016 |
I came across Monica Dickens first as the author of Follyfoot (pony stories) and One Pair of Hands and One Pair of Feet - very funny 'true' stories of life as a maid and a nurse in smart society between the wars. This is adult fiction, though still a 'girls growing up' story. Mary, the 'lead' character, is a slightly out of kilter character, and the book takes her from adulthood back to childhood, passing the journey that leads her to romance, love and - potentially - loss. It's an enjoyable period story, perceptive and sly.
  otterley | Feb 7, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Monica Dickensprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lane, HarrietIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lane, HarrietPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

Is contained in

You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Information from the Russian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
To Henry & Fanny
First words
Mary sometimes heard people say: "I can't bear to be alone."
Monica Dickens wrote Mariana when she was only twenty-four. (Preface)
She worried a little, but not for long, because the day was too glorious, and she could never worry as intensely in the open air as she did indoors.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

This novel from 1940 is the touching, humorous story of a young English girl's growth towards maturity in the 1930s. We see her at school, on holiday in Somerset, her attempt at drama school, her year in Paris learning dressmaking and getting engaged to the wrong man, and finally the arrival of Mr Right.… (more)

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (3.92)
1 2
2 3
2.5 1
3 17
3.5 17
4 33
4.5 9
5 26

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 135,474,392 books! | Top bar: Always visible