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