When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson – book review

"When Marnie Was There" by Joan G. Robinson.
“When Marnie Was There” by Joan G. Robinson.
I had never heard of When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson until Studio Ghibli announced they were adapting the book into a film. Since I absolutely love Studio Ghibli, I decided to read the book.

Anna has trouble focusing in school and doesn’t want to show any feeling toward her adoptive parents. So, they send her to live out in the country (actually, a small seaside town) where she meets a mysterious girl named Marnie. Their friendship deepens over time and Anna becomes more outgoing until one day when Marnie simply disappears.

Anna feels betrayed by Marnie and can’t seem to find anyone who knows anything about her. After a couple weeks of this, she notices a new family moving into the house where Marnie lived, and she meets the children in the family while wandering out in the marsh by the sea. One of them secretly calls Anna “Marnie”, but she won’t say why.

The style of writing in this book takes a little getting used to. Some of the phrasing used by the author is unusual (possibly because it was written in the 1960s in the UK and I’m from the US). Despite that, I found myself drawn into the story. The big reveal was done in such a way that I didn’t realize what was happening until shortly before the book explained it.

The imagery evoked by Robinson is powerful, and I found she had a solid grasp of the thought processes of kids at that age. Anna was very believable and changed over the course of the novel in a very natural way. I found it to be a delightful light fantasy story which reminded me of the feeling of reading books like Half Magic by Edward Eager (even though that book was written over a decade earlier).

I recommend When Marnie Was There as a solid and interesting read for those who enjoy middle grade books (basically, kids of all ages). It’s definitely staying in my library.

Release Date: 1968 (United Kingdom)
ISBNs: 0007104774 (9780007104772)
Publisher: HarperCollins
Language: English

MySF Rating: Four point zero stars
Family Friendliness: 100%


Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (adults drinking socially, smoking)
Language: 0
Sexuality: 0
Violence: 1 (minor quarreling)

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3 thoughts on “When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson – book review

  1. Me gustaría mucho leerlo pero no tengo los medios y es difícil encontrarlo en pdf, también lo conozco por Studio Ghibli & me parece un maravilloso filme, me ha encantado. Por eso me gustaría leer en qué se basó Hiromasa Yonebayashi cuando lo realizó. [English translation: I would like very much to read it, but I lack the means, and it is difficult to find it in PDF. I’m also familiar with it through Studio Ghibli, and it seems to me a marvelous film that has enchanted me. That’s why I would like to read what Hiromasa Yonebayashi based the movie on when he made it.]

    1. Thank you for your comment. I am looking forward to seeing the film when it is released in the States. I looked for a Spanish version of the book on Amazon.com.mx and Amazon.es, but I was unable to find one in Spanish.

      (Gracias por su comentario. Quiero ver la película cuando se puede verlo en teatros en los EEUU. Busqué por un versión del libro en español (Amazon.com.mx y Amazon.com.es), pero no podría encontrarlo en español. Por favor perdona a mi español extraño)

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