Friday, 6 November 2015

When Marnie Was There

I really miss being able to pass little gems like this one onto my mum. She would have adored Anna and Marnie. Anna is a young orphan girl who by her own judgement is both friendless and unloved. Her foster parents send her to live with an elderly couple in Norfolk in a cottage by the sea. She roams the beach and the marshes all day long, becoming fascinated by a large property called Marsh House and the ethereal little girl spied having her hair brushed in an upstairs window. The prose evokes the wild and natural world around her, sometimes dreamlike and otherworldly. I've visited the area myself and the place does have a sort of otherness to it, though that could be the sheer flatness of the land in contrast to the rolling hills and moors of my Lancashire home. Is Marnie real? Is she a ghost? The mystery of Marnie tugs at your wonderings throughout though the book is much more than a quaint little mystery. It looks at friendship, loneliness, feelings of being forever on the outside and all the insecurities of childhood magnified by the emotional and psychological effects of orphanhood.
I'm glad I managed to read this before watching Studio Ghibli's animé adaptation that caused such a splash last year.
The original line illustrations by Peggy Fortnum are simple but perfectly in keeping with the book. My edition included an afterword by the author's daughter.