Book review

When Marnie Was There by Joan G Robinson (1967)

A ghost is a kind of time traveller, don't you think? And if you travel back in time and play with someone who you meet there, then that makes you the ghost. And if the playmate comes forward into your own time, that makes her the ghost. Of course, if you meet the ghost on the beach, or among the sand dunes, it might be quite difficult to decide which of you is the real ghost:

This is a dream, thought Anna. I'm imagining her, so it doesn't matter if I don't say anything. And she went on staring and staring as if she were looking at a ghost. But the strange girl was looking at her in the same way.
"Are you real?" Anna whispered at last.
"Yes, are you?"
They laughed and touched each other to make sure. Yes, the girl was real, her dress was made of a light, silky stuff, and her arm, where Anna touched it, was warm and firm.
Apparently the girl, too, had accepted Anna's reality.
"Your hand's sticky," she said, rubbing her own down the side of her dress. "It doesn't matter, but it is."

I think it might be easy to feel lonely in the desolate landscape of the quiet Norfolk coast. There are acres of spreading salt marsh and sand dunes and marram grass, and a whistling wind over all.

Both Anna and Marnie live rather lonely lives, so it is a huge adventure for them both to share a secret friendship. Anna, you see, does not have any real family of her own, and although Marnie does have a family, she is neglected.

Marnie is Anna's first real friend, so perhaps we can understand how let down she feels when Marnie goes away suddenly. But because she has now had some practice at making friends, Anna is better able to play with the Lindsay children, when she finally meets the new family at The Marsh House.

This is a lovely story. I'm still not sure whether it is a ghost story, or a time travel story, or simply a trick of an imaginative memory? See what you think. I'm sure you'll enjoy it!

What can I read next?

If you like the rather strange mixture of ghosts and time travel, you could look at this one by Philippa Pearce:

Or you might like to look at this one by Helen Cresswell:

For a slightly older reader, Melvin Burgess has written a brilliant time travel story which I thoroughly recommend:

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