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Mariana (Persephone Classics) by Monica…

Mariana (Persephone Classics) (original 1940; edition 2009)

by Monica Dickens, Harriet Lane (Preface)

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4151625,597 (4)68
Title:Mariana (Persephone Classics)
Authors:Monica Dickens
Other authors:Harriet Lane (Preface)
Info:Persephone Books (2009), Paperback, 377 pages
Collections:Your library, Persephone Classics, To read
Tags:Fiction, British, 20th Century, Persephone Classic

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Mariana by Monica Dickens (1940)



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Mariana - Monica Dickens

Mary is alone with her dog in the country. Clearly she has lost someone, but it is not clear what the circumstances are. People have been trying to make sure she has company, to watch out for her, and have not understood that she would rather be alone. "So she and Bingo had come down to Little Creek End for a long week-end of solitude. Nobody here but herself and the dog and a thousand memories of the week-ends when there had been two people and a dog in a lonely cottage on the Essex marshes." While Mary sits by the fire, reading by the light of an oil lamp, a vicious storm rages outside. She begins to fret that there may be a letter for her back home in London, a letter stamped 'RECEIVED FROM H.M. SHIPS', perhaps an important letter. She decides to ring a friend to ask her to go round and check tomorrow, but discovers the phone is dead, the line brought down by the gale. She turns on the radio for a favorite programme only to hear 'The Admiralty regrets to announce that the British destroyer Phantom struck a mine and sank early this morning.' Three of the seven officers and twenty of the men have been lost. Next-of-kin of the missing men have been informed.

Without any means of discovering whether her husband is alive or dead Mary lies awake in the dark, unable to contemplate the future, so instead forces herself to think of the past. "The past, the certain past, was the thing to hold on to. It was safer to look back than to look forward." As she lies waiting for morning "she thought of the things that had gone, the years that had led up to this evening - the crisis of her life. All the trivial, momentous, exciting, everyday things that had gone to make the girl who lay in the linen-scented darkness waiting to hear whether her husband were alive of dead."

This somewhat bleak opening chapter is followed by a delightful and funny tale about a girl who lives with her widowed mother and her mother's brother in a small flat in London, but holidays with her extended family down at her paternal grandparents' large Elizabethan house, Charbury, in Somerset. Mary's father was killed in the Great War, and her mother has chosen to work to support herself and her daughter rather than be supported by his parents. Her own mother is unpleasant, and lives with her unpleasant servant in an unpleasant house in Dulwich. Moving between the contrasting lifestyles keeps Mary as an outsider, occasionally a misfit, but enables her to see a greater range of options than might otherwise be the case.

Monica Dickens acknowledged that the novel was based on her own childhood and growing up. Charbury is based on her grandparents' Elizabethan house, Chilworthy, near Chard in Somerset. Mariana is very much a period piece but the trials and tribulations of growing up, finding friendship, love, and a career are at heart still the same. As is a certain wistfulness for a life forever gone.

The title of the novel refers to a poem by Tennyson, which Mary learns to recite at drama school, about a woman waiting, without hope, for her lover's return.

A good suggestion for anyone who has enjoyed "The Pursuit Of Love".
  Oandthegang | Sep 7, 2014 |
Fairly good, but not engrossing story. If I put it down for 2 days, couldn't remember enough about it to continue with re-reading several pages. I didn't think it was up to the usual standard of the Persephone Classics - which I am slowly trying to work my way through. ( )
  Jonlyn | Apr 11, 2014 |
Rather conventional. File this under 'Quite interesting, but don't read any others by this author. Possibly too autobiographical to be satisfying as a novel and the idealism of marriage was so idealistic.
  janetf8 | Apr 9, 2012 |
This novel, published in 1940, tells the simple story of a girl growing up in England just before World War II breaks out. Mary Shannon is the daughter of a working-class widow, but her father’s family is a wealthier and more genteel, so she spends all her holidays at Charbury, the Shannons’ country house. To Mary, Charbury is the most wonderful place in the world, and she spends an extremely happy childhood there. As Mary grows up, she experiences all the typical trials of school, first love, and uninspiring career paths. Through it all, she searches for – and eventually finds – true love, as well as a deeper understanding of her own identity.

This book is a gentle, slow-paced read that is packed with atmosphere. It’s a wonderfully vivid picture of English life in the 1930s, and it was easy to immerse myself in that world. The writing style is very British and fun to read, with several laugh-out-loud moments, especially in the descriptions of Mary’s family and friends. The plot is pretty slow-moving and meandering, following Mary through more than ten years of her life, but it maintains its direction as Mary continues her journey of self-discovery. If you’re in the mood for a coming-of-age story or a period piece, I would definitely recommend this book.
2 vote christina_reads | Feb 9, 2011 |
25 Dec 2009 - from Bridget

Somehow, I've bought this book for quite a few people but didn't have a copy of my own until Bridget bought me one for Christmas.

From the atmospheric start to this book, where we find Mary in a remote cottage with her dog, waiting for news of... someone... I was hooked. With the frame set in Essex, we then follow Mary back through her somewhat uneventful life between the wars, in a charming portrait of the trials of being a poorer relative, without a father, in thrall to your glamorous cousins and trying to find your way. London, the countryside and Paris are all beautifully described and, as Mary encounters several different gentlemen, we always have those opening scenes at the back of our mind - of whom, exactly, is she waiting for news, and are they worthy of her attention? I particularly liked the portrayal of adult London life through the eyes of the young Mary, and enjoyed a character who is not always attractive, or indeed interesting, but so well drawn.

Only aspect I really didn't like was the casual anti-Semitism - I suppose this has to be read as being "of its time" and it's not as bad as some other novels of the period! ( )
1 vote LyzzyBee | Apr 4, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Monica Dickensprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lane, HarrietIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To Henry & Fanny
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Mary sometimes heard people say: "I can't bear to be alone."
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.
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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)

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