Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Another Dickens??? YES!!!

I recently read a book entitled “Mariana” by an author I had not heard of before named Monica Dickens.

"Mariana" by Monica Dickens
            Monica Dickens        
It was written when she was 24 years old and originally published in 1940. She is the great granddaughter of Charles Dickens.

Charles Dickens would be proud of his great granddaughter

She had several books published during her lifetime but she has kind of been forgotten about. My friend Kim found a book store in London that republishes books written by women of the past century. They are the ones that republished “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day”.

It is called Persephone Books (like the Greek goddess). Kim was going to visit it one day that we were in London, so I asked her to pick me up a book that had a happy ending, and this is the one that was recommended to her by the store employee.
Persephone Books-London

“Mariana” is about a young woman, Mary Shannon, who lived in London during WWII, and while staying at a cottage in the country for a holiday, she hears about the sinking of her husband’s ship while listening to the wireless (radio). It was reported that there had been some survivors. The phone lines at the cottage are dead due to a storm that is going on and she can’t get into the village to send a telegraph to London to see if a telegram had been delivered to her flat. She is stranded all night to think the worst until morning. In order to make it through the night, she reviews her life in her mind, going back to when she was a girl and growing up with a single mother, who had been widowed during WWI.

Monica Dickens has a real gift for storytelling. I think it would have been hard being compared to her Great Grandfather. Charles Dickens had the ability to create characters so well that you could almost smell them! I love his books, but Monica Dickens can stand on her own as an author. She also has a talent for describing people and situations but in a different way. Maybe it is because of the different time period, but you admired her mother for all she was able to accomplish, and you cried for when Mary, the heroine, experienced romantic heartbreaks. This book has humor, and romance, and just a fun story.

WARNING!!! Spoiler Alert!!!! My only complaint is that more time was spent on the romances that didn’t work out than the one where she met and married her husband. I wanted their courtship to last a little longer because it was so sweet. Now I did read the end first, which is usual for me, but it was still suspenseful to find out if her husband was one of the survivors or not.

I really enjoyed her book and I look forward to reading more of her, but I think it will be hard to find more of her books because many of them are out of print. There are a few used ones on some book sites. Thank goodness Persephone’s does mail order!!! Here is the biography of Monica Dickens on the Persephone Books web-site:

Monica Dickens, born in 1915, was brought up in London. Her mother's German origins and her Catholicism gave her the detached eye of an outsider; at St Paul's Girls' School she was under-occupied and rebellious. After drama school she was a debutante before working as a cook. One Pair of Hands (1939), her first book, described life in the kitchens of Kensington. It was the first of a group of semi autobiographies of which Mariana (1940), technically a novel, was one. 'My aim is to entertain rather than instruct,' she wrote. 'I want readers to recognise life in my books.' In 1951 Monica Dickens married a US naval officer, Roy Stratton, moved to America and adopted two daughters. An extremely popular writer, she involved herself in, and wrote about, good causes such as the Samaritans. After her husband died she lived in a cottage in rural Berkshire, dying there in 1992.
Beautiful paper used and very beautiful books! 

Here is a link to Persephone Bookstores website: