I am quite enjoying Mariana by Monica Dickens, but not at all wanting to race through it! Parts of it remind me of my own childhood (Mary and her cousins all sit on the Swing Tree and hurl insults at their nannies, while my siblings and I would all stand in our ‘airplane tree’ and shake the branches, pretending to fly it!), it seems so true of people I’ve known, including a rather disagreeable child like this:
Margaret had inherited this sticky trait from her mother but did not confine it to her father. She was always flinging herself on people, clinging round their necks with limp reptilian arms, and saying, ‘Auntay,’ or ‘Un-kerl, I want to speak chyou. D’you like me?’ If she got a snub, she would creep away and commune with her conscience, which was more than life-size. When she had no sins of her own to fret over, she would fret over somebody else’s. She would be a ‘good woman’ when she grew up, you could see it coming miles away.
It starts off in rather a Proustian way, the first chapter introduces Mary as an adult alone in a small country cottage during a storm, waiting to hear about her unnamed husband. As she lays in bed, unable to sleep, she starts to think about her past (just as In Search of Lost Time begins in the confusion of darkness and sleeping and long lost memories slowly rising up) and then chapter 2 starts with a memory of the smells of her past (just as Proust writes about too, in fact this reminded me of his ecstasy in Swann’s Way over smells “homey, human and enclosed, an exquisite, ingenious, and limpid jelly of all the fruits of the year that have left the orchard for the cupboard”), where I was hooked by this:
It was the smell of clean sheets that reminded Mary of what, when she was a child, she called the Charbury Smell. It was the first thing you noticed as you went in at the front door of Charbury; an indefinable pot-pourri of all the fragrant things in the house — roses, wood-smoke, polished floors, bread, and lavender-kept old linen. You were only conscious of it when you first came down from London. Once you had been there some time, it became a part of your country self, like the ragamuffin clothes you wore, and the grazes on your knees, and waking on Saturdays to the sound of the gardeners sweeping the gravel drive with brooms.
I grew up on a farm and so definitely had a ‘country self’, complete with old clothes the better to explore the woods in and scraped knees from learning to ride my bike on gravel.
One of the reasons I am beginning to love the Persephone books so much is that they speak to this earliest side of me, the country child self that learned to cross stitch and quilt and bake with my grandmas, that played in the trees and gardens, picking raspberries and fresh peas, that learned to read on old books lying around the farmhouse before I ever watched tv. I’m only 30, but I grew up in a rather old fashioned way and these lost old classics speak to me, to my first self.
In other Persephone news, I found a Dorothy Whipple novel at my library! She seems to be quite the favourite among Persephone readers, only the one I found has not been published by them yet… it is Every Good Deed. The beginning looks good, so I’ll probably start that after I’m done Mariana.
Also, I’ve been thinking of a plan to collect all the links to the various Persephone reviews around the internet and put them all in one place somewhere, perhaps on a separate page of my blog. It could become overwhelming, but I thought there’s so many of these books that are terrific but that you’ve never heard of, it’s hard to know what you’d like until you read a quote or review and then it would be easier to find all that info in one place. I feel like I’m caught in a whirlwind, going from review to review just now, plus looking over last year’s Persephone Reading Week too! Just an idea as of yet, but I’m already collecting links for one book at a time. What do you all think, would this be a good idea and where would it best be hosted?