Mariana by Monica Dickens
This book is a delicious feast of Britishness, which may not appeal to everybody but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's filled with summers in the country, English schoolgirls and tea-times, all in Monica Dickens' light and homey writing.
As Mary waits for the night and the storm to end so she can get to a working telephone, her thoughts take her back through the years to her childhood and her life in a city flat with her mother and uncle Geoffrey. She thinks about summers at her beloved Charbury where aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins all gathered for holidays. She remembers "...all the trivial, momentous, exciting, everyday things that had gone to make the girl who lay in the linen-scented darkness waiting to hear whether her husband were alive or dead."
The appealing thing about "Mariana" is that it is about everyday things. It's a satisfying story of an ordinary girl who has friendships, crushes, problems at school and all the little successes and failures that make up a life. It was refreshing after the more serious Edith Wharton and Willa Cather novels.
I wondered right till the end why it was called "Mariana" when the main character's name is Mary. It finally made sense in the last chapter where there are quotes from Tennyson's poem of that same name. I'll stop there and not ruin if for you by telling you how it ends.
Some of my favourite lines:
About a woman she was working for..."With the naivete of wealth, she seemed equally oblivious both of annoyance and ridicule, but Mary suffered agonies of English embarrassment on her behalf."
About a nurse..."She roared with laughter and went crackling and rustling away on her large squeaking rubber soles to arrange the flowers with less artistry than was humanly possible."
"Mariana" was lovely, a pleasant book perfect for summer, which, thank goodness, has finally decided to show up.