When Marnie Was There: contemperaneous reviews

Here is a not-exhaustive compilation of reviews of When Marnie Was There I found in the library from around when the book was published. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to post this, part of me had an expectation that I'd share everything I find—I can't, there are scholars who do that full-time, like the late Peanuts researcher Thomas Inge. Now there is also a question of copyright, for I am not authorised to post newspaper scans: but it is well in my right to quote, for everything you see here really are just quotes actually, not the complete articles. You see, Marnie was often reviewed with a bunch of other books, so nyah nya nya nyah copyright trolls.

Naomi Lewis, Times Literary Supplement, 1967

A national treasure imo.

Lewis was a professional scholar and critic of children's literature, she had a reputation for having a deep respect and understanding of children's storytelling. In fact, she elevated the reputation of the UK as a whole in the field of literary criticism because of it. This is some of what she wrote:

The chapters hold a thrilling intensity; the salt smell, the slapping of waves, the bird that seems to cry "Pity me!" seem linked to the pleasure and the loss. For Marnie does disappear, and the house is empty; perhaps it has been empty for many a year. Yet the story is not done; the careful tracking of the theme, and the final discovery of Marnie's place in Anna's life - however much it draws on the audacious off-plausibilities of fiction - is also part of this memorable books achievement.

Hannah Carter, The Guardian, 1969

This is not strictly a review of Marnie, rather it's an interview with Robinson that happened to include reflections on her own childhood in connection with Marnie. I found it pretty explosive.

I am Anna of course, and Marnie is my mother. My mother was always un-get-atable. Without meaning to, she always let me down. I found this extremely difficult to forgive, for without realising parents are in the same boat as yourself, that they are children, too, you can't forgive them for being frail and human. But until you learn to forgive, you yourself are crippled, can't begin to grow up. Through writing Marnie I faced the truth and found understanding. It made things a lot better.

Claire Tomalin, The Observer 3 December 1967

This review is in fact only nine words long (the last nine words) quoted here. I've included the prologue here however, because it is interesting to note that Tomalin is introducing Marnie as one of the many books being published at the time that departs from the strictures of traditional children's topics. Tomalin also wrote a review of Charley.

Children lonely, frightened, fighting for their lives, or their sanity [...] In the unstable, unhelpful, badly organised, horrifying world we have to bring our chldren to terms with, the nightmares of Kafka and the voice of the psychiatric social worker may be more pertinent than any traditional evocation of English country life, boarding school, Daddy in the Services. Mummy sexless and splendid. Children now are enjoined less to keep the upper lip stiff, more to examine whether they want to be conformists or outsiders in the society they are faced with. [...] I found this exceptionally charming, sentimentally satisfying end and all.

The Sunday Times, 27 June 1971, p.29

This is more of an ad for how the book was now being published as a little mass market paperback. This is the paperback I own actually.

ARMADA LIONS: King of the wind by Margurite Henry; When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson (Collins 25p each)

Reprints from a dozen titles from Collins' back-list the Lions are well-produces paper-backs of stories more distinguished than the familiar Aramadas. The series includes books by Alan Garner, Noel Streatfield, Michael Bond, P.L. Travers Margurite Henry's account of the famous Godolphin Arabian is a classic horse-story; Joan Robinson's tale of a lonely girl and her imagined companion is thoughtfully conceieved and maturely wrtten for ten upwards.

McGibbon, Jean, The New Statesman, 3 November 1967, Vol 74, p606

What's notable is how they describe the reality of Marnie her. To McGibbon, she was imagined into existence.

Anna, a foster-child shut away behind her own self distrust, is sent from London to a Norfolk village to get well. here she finds a house, inexplicably familiar in this utterly unfamiliar country, inhabited by a phantom playmate. Marnie, a ghost or hal- lucination, fills the emptiness in Anna's mind and, for the first time in conscious memory, gives her a sense of her own identity. Though Marnie eventually vanishes for good, she leaves Anna able to make firends with the real family who come to live in the house. The wide skies and lonely creeks, beautifully described, are condusive to the imaginative fan- tasy, which is subtly interwoven with Anna's actual memories. In the end all the threads in her story, real and imaginary — are brought together in a satisfying climax; the déjà-vu element is explained and much about her own past revealed.

Elaine Moss, The Spectator, 3 November 1967

Yes, The Spectator. I was surprised myself, what's a heavyweight political magazine doing writing children's book reviews? Well, it turned out they had an annual column dedicated to precisely that, and Marnie was luckily included. It's very short, but gets to the point.

When Marnie was There Joan G. Robinson (Collins 15s). Extraordinary potent fantasy, set on a Norfolk staithe; an orphan, sent away to recuperate, discovers her ancestry, after strange experiences with a child from the past. The climax is both thrilling and intensely moving.

G.V.B, Children's Book News, November 1967

This was the notice put out when Marnie was first published, aimed at booksellers and librarians, hence the rather cryptic figures at the beginning: 224 pp means the book is 224 pages. 8" x 5½" means the book is physically 0.20 by 0.14 meters, useful for shelving purposes. 15/- means the book costs 15 shillings only. This was before the GBP was decimalised. In decimalised figures that's 0.75 GPB. Won't bother adjust for inflation, the historic costs of book printing is a whole other thing.

Ills. Peggy Fortnum, Collins, 224 pp.,
 8" x 5½", 15/-

This is a deeply perceptive study of lonely
Anna, a foster child surrounded with well-
meaning kindness, none of which touches her
real self. On holiday on the Norfolk marshes
to recover he health, her longing to belong breaks through the time barrier and brings
her a friend, Marnie, who mysteriously
appears from an apparently deserted house by
the marsh. Anna at last breaks through her
shell, and her happy moments with Marnie
gradually enable her to come to terms with her
surroundings and to cope with people. So she
is able to make friends with the family who
take over the big house when Marnie has dis-
appeared back into time, and it is they who
are the means of resolving the mystery very
happily as far as Anna and Marnie are con-
cerned. Joan Robinson (well known for "Teddy
Robinson") breaks, for her, entirely new
ground with considerable success. Girls from
twelve upwards should particularly enjoy this

April 24 2022