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Mariana (Persephone Classics) by Monica…
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Mariana (Persephone Classics) (original 1940; edition 2008)

by Monica Dickens, Harriet Lane (Preface)

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4181625,386 (4)68
Member:Nymeth
Title:Mariana (Persephone Classics)
Authors:Monica Dickens
Other authors:Harriet Lane (Preface)
Info:Persephone Books Ltd (2008), Paperback, 377 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:Classics, General Fiction, TBR

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Mariana by Monica Dickens (1940)

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Mariana is the second book from Persephone, which publishes "mainly neglected fiction and non-fiction by women, for women and about women." Published in 1940, it is essentially a coming of age story about an ordinary English woman, and on the basis of that description might easily be dismissed. But what makes Mariana such a charming read is its structure. The book opens with our heroine, Mary, ensconced in a holiday cottage with her dog, Bingo, and a raging storm outdoors. She hears some upsetting news on the radio, but the weather prevents her venturing out to obtain more information. Instead, the reader is treated to the story of Mary's life, from idyllic childhood summers in the country, through her school days and young adulthood in London.

Mary grows up surrounded by interesting and influential characters. Her widowed, independent mother fosters a sense of independence in her daughter, even as Mary with school and vocational training. Mary's uncle Geoffrey, an actor, lives with Mary and her mother. His carefree approach to life strikes Mary as much more desirable than her mother's constant worry about having enough money for life's basic necessities. Mary’s first love is her cousin Denys, and it takes years for her to understand their close relationship can be nothing more than platonic. But she is resilient and every relationship with a man teaches her more about what she needs from life and love.

By the time we arrive at those moments in the cottage, we are fully invested in Mary's story and learning the details behind the news report. Monica Dickens reveals those details and wraps up Mary’s story in a most clever fashion. All in all, a very satisfying read. ( )
2 vote lauralkeet | Nov 23, 2014 |
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 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

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."
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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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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