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Mariana (Classic edition)

by Monica Dickens

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A Well Full of Leaves
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PREFACE BY HARRIET LANE
400pp
ISBN 9781906462048

We chose to publish Mariana because we wanted a novel like Dusty Answer, I Capture the Castle or The Pursuit of Love, about a girl encountering life and love, which is also funny, readable and perceptive; it is a 'hot-water bottle' novel, one to curl up with on the sofa on a wet Sunday afternoon.

Monica Dickens's first book, published in 1940, could easily have been called 'Mariana – an Englishwoman'. For that is what it is: the story of a young English girl's growth towards maturity in the 1930s. We see Mary at school in Kensington and on holiday in Somerset; her attempt at drama school; her year in Paris learning dressmaking and getting engaged to the wrong man; her time as a secretary and companion; and her romance with Sam.

But it is also more than this. As Harriet Lane remarks in her Preface: 'It is Mariana's artlessness, its enthusiasm, its attention to tiny, telling domestic detail that makes it so appealing to modern readers.' And John Sandoe Books commented: 'The contemporary detail is superb – Monica Dickens's descriptions of food and clothes are particularly good – and the characters are observed with vitality and humour. Mariana is written with such verve and exuberance that we would defy any but academics and professional cynics not to enjoy it.'

Also available as a Persephone Grey and as a Persephone e-book.


Read What Readers Say

The Spectator

The contemporary detail is superb… and the characters are observed with vitality and humour.

The Lady

So enjoyable that it is impossible to understand how it disappeared from view for so long.

Sunday Telegraph

Funny, poignant and a perfect period piece…this book is written with verve and exuberance.

travelling_philbury via Instagram

This book is a real delight - Persephone refer to it as a “hot water bottle novel” and that’s exactly what it is. A book you can curl up with on the sofa and escape into. Mostly set in England between the world wars, ‘Mariana’ is the coming-of-age story of Mary, whom we follow from childhood right through to the early years of the second world war where she is desperately waiting to hear whether her husband has survived the bombing of his ship. We see Mary’s idyllic childhood summers at her grandparents’ country home, her school days and life at home in a London flat with her widowed bohemian dressmaker mother and actor uncle, her hilarious adventures at drama school and eventually her travels to Paris, and all the misguided decisions, in love and all else, she makes along the way. It is a very funny and heartwarming book all at once, for Mary realises, looking back at her younger years, that perhaps they weren’t as perfect as they seemed, and that the grownups did a good job of hiding harsher aspects of reality from her. For most of the book, Mary is less concerned about making her own way in the world and more about filling in time before she meets Mr Right. By the time the book is nearly over, she has realised that her husband is potentially now dead and she will have to carry on, independently; that she will only ever really have herself, and that she doesn’t need anyone else to complete her. Quite a revolutionary thought for 1940!

Categories: Classics

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