Steve Cole on a book that works both as a horror story and a love story…
Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr is about a bored invalid girl. Confined to bed, Marianne sketches a house with an antique pencil and finds herself caught there in her dreams with a boy called Mark. Mark is seriously ill in the real world, but begins to heal in the dream house – even as sinister forces gather around them.
Oh, when I think of that creepy two-dimensional house where the things you draw become real… The realization that nothing can be erased from the dream world – once drawn into being it must remain… the horror of those scary one-eyed boulders thumping after the fleeing children… How I wish I’d written this book!
Crisply written, understated and eerie, for me Marianne Dreams is one of those books you can read and re-read till the covers fall off and still get just as drawn into the fictional world. It works as both a horror story and a love story, chiefly through leaving an awful lot unsaid. And though its plot is elegantly simple and linear it rewards adult reading. Indeed, Storr could’ve replaced the child characters with two adult invalids with only minimal changes. Perhaps that’s due to the timeless nature of the dreamworld and our preoccupation with that rush of nonsense that floods our heads each night – surely there must be meaning there? Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to a nice dream and stay in it? Certainly, the way a dream world starts to feel more vivid and important than reality – to the detriment of our real-world selves – is more resonant in our social-networking age than ever.
Plus, Marianne Dreams has my favourite closing lines of any book – completely unadorned but packing such a satisfying emotional punch; as simple, no-nonsense and stylish as all that has come before it.
Marianne Dreams (0571202128) is published by Faber Children’s Classics at £5.99 pbk
Steve Cole’s latest book Cows in Action: The Viking Emoo-gency (1849414017) will be published in February by Red Fox at £4.99 pbk.