Monday, June 22, 2020

41. Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr

This book is a family milestone.  My wife discovered it and was reading it and my daughter picked it up. She is 7 and to my disappointment has not enjoyed me reading chapter books to her.  We did the first two Beverly Cleary books, but it was really mostly due to my insistence.  I had dreams of reading all kinds of kids classics to her, but it may not end up happening.  She seems to strongly prefer me to only read picture books and comics.  On the other hand, she does love reading by herself and she just devoured this book, to our surprise and pleasure.  I had just finished the phat phantasy Farseer trilogy and was waiting for the next trilogy to come in the mail and thought a quick, well-written, British children's book would be a perfect in-between read.  And my daughter insisted.  So this is the first book the entire family has read independently, all within the same week.  

I had never heard of it, but it does seem reasonable to suggest it was once a children's classic.  Marianne gets sick and must stay in bed for two months.  They never explain what specifically is wrong with her but it is not super serious and she seems basically fine except she must rest.  Her struggles are emotional as she gets bored and frustrated, even leading to some pretty bad temper tantrums (nice to see this behaviour is universal).  One day, she discovers a nice old pencil in her mother's old jewelry case and draws a house with it.  That night, she has a dream that takes place in the house and she meets a boy.  Neither of them know how they got there or what they are supposed to do.  The rest of the story is about her and the boy figuring out the relationship between her drawing and what goes on in the dreams.  It becomes a mix of her own personal growth as well as their adventure to get out of the house.  The boy turns out to be another pupil of her governess, a boy named Mark who has polio and may or may not be able to walk again.

It is well-written and fast-paced with its own engaging internal logic, even if not all the questions are answered.  The ending was hopeful but ambiguous, which leaves you wanting to find out what was going to happen but also probably the best way it could end.

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