MARIANA by Monica Dickens

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMary is a small girl who lives with her mother and uncle in London. Her best time of the year is the holidays in her father’s family’s house where she has found love and everything is like a dream for her.

During the whole book, we discover the changes in Mary’s life, deceptions, mistakes, discoveries. Hers is the normal life passing through childhood to youth until she finds love.

This is not a love story, it is just the story of the years of someone not remarkable, but learning day after day how to live and how to manage everyday challenges.

We encounter the naivety of a girl, the caprices of a young woman and her journey through understanding and maturity, not without some pains, but always with a new day to see everything better and better, and finding that nothing is ultimately so important.

In the preface of the book there is a sentence that explains pretty well what this book is about:

“‘Mariana’ will be fun for those who like to look through other people’s snap-albums.”

I always enjoy the positive messages in books, and this is one of the reasons: I like to copy and share in my reviews these marvellous sentences:

“There’s no such word as cannot.”

“… from the start that your best would never be good enough for him.”

To understand how people use their power against those who are under them:

“One might ask, thought Mary, but one would not necessarily get a coherent explanation.”

This is a very familiar sensation.

“How nice people were, thought Mary, going upstairs to change her dress, and how churlish she had been to them in her preoccupation with her own exaggerated troubles.”

First time discovering how problems become smaller as you go far away from them.

“… which performed Greek tragedies and Prometheus Unbound to people who would have preferred a concert party but turned up nevertheless to show that they were as cultured as the next man.”

Why us, mankind, want to appear to be different from what we really are?

The good advice of the eldest in the family:

“The smallest doubt in your mind, she had said, must be enough to show you it’s not the right man. That doubt won’t disappear after you’re married.”

A good advice not only to choose your partner but in all the questions in our lives.

Monica Dickens, born in 1915, was brought up in London; herMonica father was a barrister and a grandson of Charles Dickens. Her mother’s German origins and her Catholicism gave her the detached eye of an outsider; at St Paul’s Girls’ School she was under-occupied and rebellious. After drama school she was a debutante before working as a cook. One Pair of Hands (1939), her first book, described life in the kitchens of Kensington. It was the first of a group of semi autobiographies of which Mariana (1940), technically a novel, was one. ‘My aim is to entertain rather than instruct,’ she wrote. ‘I want readers to recognise life in my books.’ In 1951 Monica Dickens married a US naval officer, Roy Stratton, moved to America and adopted two daughters. The Winds of Heaven was published in 1955. An extremely popular writer, Monica Dickens involved herself in, and wrote about, good causes such as the Samaritans. After her husband died she lived in a cottage in rural Berkshire, dying there in 1992.

(Persephone Books)

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