Mariana is the story of one young girl’s growth towards adulthood during the 1920s and ‘30s. The book begins when Mary Shannon is eight, and traveling with her somewhat flighty mother to Charbury, her grandparents’ house; and continues up through the time that Mary is twenty-four and waiting to hear news of her husband from the war.
Monica Dickens (a great-granddaughter of Charles) depicts Mary’s maturation to adulthood with perfection. The reader sympathizes with Mary as she experiences the ups and downs of relationships and careers—experimenting with both seems to be pretty characteristic of Mary, as she grapples a bit with identity and independence. And yet, there isn’t the usual amount of teenage angst that one usually finds in a novel about growing up, which I found to be very refreshing. Mary is a sweet and sometimes naïve girl, but at the same time, she’s also wonderfully sarcastic towards her peers. She’s hard to like at times, but in an odd way, I found myself sympathizing with her.
Even without reading the preface of the novel, one can tell that the author borrowed a lot from her own life to write this book. The tone of the book, with its triumphs and disappointments, absolutely rings true. Mariana, which takes its title from the Tennyson poem, is now the third Persephone book I’ve read. It’s a lighthearted and lovely book, as Persephones usually are.
This is Persephone #2 (endpaper below)