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Marianne Dreams (Faber Children's Classics) Paperback – 3 Apr 2000
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Ill, and confined to bed, Marianne doodles eerie pictures of a house, a boy, and some strange stones. She begins to have strange dreams as she becomes drawn into the world she has created on paper.
About the Author
Catherine Storr was born in London in 1913. She practised medicine for fifteen years, but never forgot her ambition to be a writer. She wrote her first children's books for her three daughters and many became classics. Marianne Dreams was also made into a film, The Paper House, in 1990. She died in 2001.
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First published in 1958 and read (and reread) by me as a child in the 1970s, Catherine Storr’s ‘Marianne Dreams’ was a book that kept me totally gripped from beginning to end, and one which I found both frightening and impossible to put down - and as I read this for the first time whilst in bed recovering from being unwell myself, I became totally caught up in Marianne’s story. Having just reread this, I find it difficult to disassociate myself from how I felt when reading it as a child and to experience it now with fresh eyes; however, what I can say is that Catherine Storr captures particularly well Marianne’s feeling of disorientation and frustration with being kept in bed, and also how Marianne comes to the realisation that as she has created the situation Mark finds himself in, it is up to her to help him to escape from it. I also enjoyed the way that the author blended Marianne’s real life with her ‘fantasy’ life and, although the story didn’t naturally have quite the same effect on me now as it did all those years ago, I still found this an absorbing and enjoyable read and one which provided me with a lovely feeling of nostalgia.
Marianne Dreams is a story that was read out to our class when we were 10, via a radio programme that had been utilised as part of the syllabus at the school I was attending. This was accompanied by some of the more spooky musical passages from Bela Bartok and voice overs for the spoken parts of the two children the story is about. The only snag was...for some reason we never got to hear the last installment. It was never clear whether the children did manage to reach sanctuary after all, not what happened after that.
So now I finally did get to find out what happened to Marianne and Mark.
Readers might remember that Marianne had got herself and the boy into a bit of a fix. They are besieged by evil, sentient stones with eyes called the Watchers outside the house they inhabit via each other's dreams. The Watchers are most definitely to 'get' them, but will the children regain the health and strength they need to escape and make their way to the lighthouse, where the Watchers won't be able to get them?
It all started when Marianne becomes ill with a mysterious throat infection, meaning she has to endure at least six weeks of total bed rest - or experience worse debilitation in the future. Naturally very bored and frustrated with this predicament, she passes the time by drawing with a special pencil she discovers. Imagine her surprise when she discovers that she can end up dreaming what she has drawn.............so the lonely house in the prairie needs a knocker for the door, stairs for the house so the boy she draws can come down and answer it, though as it turns out he has polio and can't anyway.
Marianne does not get on all that well with Mark at first. Not surprisingly, he objects to the idea that he may only part of Marianne's imagination and in fact, Marianne's governess does make it clear that there really is a real Mark outside Marianne's dreams. That both realise the magic is actually in the pencil only happens after an angry row and the damage has been done - after Marianne created the Watchers, whilst upset. Driven by remorse, Marianne now realises that she and Mark will have to work together and be nicer to each other if they are to undo what has been put in place.
That there can great magic in the power of suggestion and that this has less to do with egotistical solipsism is skilfully handled in this children's classic. It is not clear that Mark will ever be truly well again, or even survive at all, and it does seem as though only he faith of a special friend could help there. Having said that this story is incredibly spooky in its way - ten is probably, exactly the right age in which this novel can be enjoyed without the child either finding it too much like a fairy tale to be outgrown, or too scary to be read without causing too many nightmares.
The language used is a little dated in places 'beastly' is somewhat overused, for example. Otherwise I would say that Marianne Dreams has certainly withstood the test of time.
I have been searching the internet for a psychological insight into the story and found an excellent excerpt from a book that suggests that this book's message is that HOPE is vital for overcoming adversity.
I found the depiction of the 10 year-old Marianne's mood changes during her illness fascinating.
What age of child would this book be 'suitable' for, without scaring them to pieces?