Title: When Marnie Was There
Author: Joan G. Robinson Illustrated: Peggy Fortnum
Publication Information: Armada paperback, original pub date 1967
Genre: Children’s Fiction / Time Slip
Plot: Lonely Anna, an inarticulate orphan who lives with a kindly older couple who do not understand her, goes to stay in Norfolk with their friends after being ill with asthma. Exploring the area, she is entranced by the Marsh House on a creek nearby and by Marnie, an outgoing girl her age who appears and disappears mysteriously from the house. When Marnie is there, she is the perfect friend – she is imaginative and comes up with great games – but the reader guesses she is not real and the locals think Anna is talking to herself. As in Tom’s Midnight Garden, the loneliness of two children in the same place but many years apart results in a friendship that transcends time. Although her friendship with Marnie is not without sadness (which she does not understand), it helps prickly Anna learn how to be a friend and how to accept affection. The outgoing Lindsay family that moves into the old house on the creek after Marnie disappears for good completes the process, showing Anna what it is like to be part of a large and lively family and helping her come to terms with her foster parents and the birth family she feels abandoned her.
I recognized the name of the illustrator, Peggy Fortnum, but could not immediately identify her other work (more than 65 books, it turns out). She is best known for her illustrations of Paddington but some of her work is expensively for sale.
What I disliked: I am not a fan of time slip/time travel where it turns out to have all been a dream. I was worried things were going that way in the second half of the book so was delighted when there was proof that Anna had not imagined her encounters with Marnie.
Source: I read this as a child and finally bought my own paperback copy in 1989. I was reminded of this delightful story by someone on Shelf Discovery.
* Time Travel vs. Time Slip
Fans of these genres may dispute the difference between time travel and time slip but for my purpose today time travel involves traveling through time into the past or into the future whereas a time slip involves a rift in the fabric of time that allows travel between two or more periods of time. It is definitely more gradual and the character does not always recognize what is happening, as here. In this book, Marnie and Anna do not physically travel but Anna slips back to Marnie’s time.
What do you think?