Marianne Dreams; Marianne and Mark

How thick am I? I was about a quarter of the way through Marianne and Mark before I twigged that Marianne was the same character as the central figure in Catherine Storr's creepy classic, Marianne Dreams. So I went back to the first book and re-read that before finishing Marianne and Mark.

In some ways I don't blame myself for not connecting the two, because they are very different books. Marianne Dreams haunted me and I only read it once as a child because I found it so unsettling. Re-reading as an adult, I think it's utterly brilliant. Marianne, ill in bed for months, finds that the drawings she makes in the daytime come to life in her dreams. This is all very well when she draws a crooked house and a boy inside to let her in (Mark, a real boy, also ill with polio and sharing her tutor), but not when she loses her temper, scribbles over the windows and draws rocks with eyes to keep watch over him. THEY are truly frightening, and the psychological depth of the story is finely drawn (pardon the pun).

Marianne and Mark is set several years later and is a more realist story, though it does have subtle fantasy elements, and discussions of fate, magic and destiny. Mark himself doesn't appear until quite late in the piece, and when he does he is almost too alpha male: intelligent and respectful, but definitely taking charge and at times condescending. However, for most of the novel, Marianne is on her own, wandering through Brighton on an enforced holiday, striking up casual friendships with unsuitable people (there is an unspoken class divide at play here). 

Storr, herself a psychiatrist, has some fun with the character of Marianne's psychiatrist uncle, who relentlessly analyses his niece and allows her more freedom than she is really comfortable with. If I'd discovered this book as an adolescent, I would have found it incredibly comforting. Marianne is worried, at fifteen, that she's not normal because she doesn't have a boyfriend; she feels naive, self-conscious, unattractive, doesn't understand the rules, and when a boy does come along (not Mark), she finds herself miserably out of her depth. That was me -- only for me, those feelings lasted till I was about twenty-five!

Looking for a cover image to post here, I was startled to find a second hand copy of Marianne and Mark listed for over a thousand pounds! If anyone really wants it, I'd be happy to sell for considerably less than that. Or maybe I'll just keep it!


  1. Apparently Marianne Dreams is going to be on the same Literature course as Peter's Room.
    I read it as a child and remembered the illustrations quite vividly. Then, years later, I idly turned on the TV in the middle of a film and realised it was the story of Marianne Dreams, and it was absolutely terrifying! I couldn't believe such a spooky adult film had come from what was supposed to be a children's book! I'm thinking I should try and find it to reread now.

  2. Oh wow, I would love to do that Literature course! I wonder what the rest of the list is like.
    Storr does manage to tap into some quite deep waters, terrifying at any age I suspect.

  3. They're also doing The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe; Watership Down; and The Changeover by Margaret Mahy ( which I don't know). This is at Victoria University of Wellington, and it's a second year Children's Literature course focusing on 'the relationship between realism and fantasy'. This is all from the foreword to the new GGB edition of Peter's Room, which I couldn't resist buying to save my old paperback from getting any more worn out.

  4. That course sounds amazing! I strongly recommend The Changeover, it's a wonderful book, I think you'll enjoy it :)
    My copy of Peter's Room hasn't arrived yet, hopefully it'll be here soon.

  5. I read Marianne Dreams as a child, too, and also found it very disturbing, and I've never re-read it. But I have taken some books to Mount of Alex, a local second-hand and antiquarian book seller, and he's offered me credit, and there is a shelf of children's books I remember from my childhood that includes Marianne Dreams (also The Witch of Blackbird Pond - did you ever read that one?). I might indulge.

  6. I've never read The Witch of Blackbird Pond, but I must, thank you for reminding me. Also for reminding with your latest blog post that I have How Bright Are All Things Here in my To-Read pile and I want to move it to the top :)
    What a dream - to have credit at a bookshop with a shelf of long lost children's books!! Indulge!!

  7. I really liked Marianne Dreams as a child but did not learn about the sequel (I don't think it ever made it to the US) until I was an adult. They do seem like completely different books but I was very happy to get a copy.

  8. I had no idea there was a sequel either until I came across this. I was happy to get a copy too :)