Review of ‘Marianne Dreams’ by Catherine Storr

First published in 1958, this is a children’s classic about friendship, recuperation and facing one’s fears. After my latest re-read, I’ve decided it’s symbolic, although I’m not sure of what.

The story is about ten-year-old Marianne, who becomes ill on her birthday and is ordered by the doctor to spend several weeks in bed. She finds a magic pencil in her grandmother’s workbox and uses it to draw a house. At the same time, she has a tutor to help her keep up with schoolwork and who also visits another child, Mark, who is recovering from polio. When Marianne sleeps, she visits Mark in the house she drew. At first, they don’t get on well. He refuses to believe everything about their environment is from Marianne’s drawing. However, they work together to escape from the house, which is being watched by sinister one-eyed rocks.

It’s quite a charming, wise story although the language the children use is a bit cringeworthy – ‘frightfully’, ‘beastly’, ‘oughtn’t you’, ‘jolly good’. I’m sure the book can be enjoyed by young readers today, with perhaps some context about medicine of the era, with its prescriptions for lengthy bed rest and sedatives, and the use of the iron lung for polio patients. The author was a doctor, so her insight helps to make the details authentic.

The story has a number of illustrations by Marjorie-Ann Watts. This edition was published in 2000 as a Faber Children’s Classic.

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