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MONICA DICKENS (1915-92) was a debutante before working as a cook. One Pair of Hands (1937), her first book, described life in the kitchens of Kensington. It was the first of a group of semi-autobiographies of which Mariana (1940), technically a novel, was one. 'My aim is to entertain rather than instruct,' she wrote. 'I want readers to recognise life in my books.'
First published about 1940, this novel was written by a great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens. The story is about one terrible night during which a woman waits to hear whether her husband has survived the sinking of his ship by a German sub. Mary recalls idyllic childhood summers spent at the family's country house-playing with cousins, riding ponies and, in later years, fox hunts and dances. The beautiful prose and apt dialog are beautifully narrated by Jane Asher. One caveat: a whiff of anti-Semitism appears; for instance, Mary is devastated to learn that, after the country house is sold to a Jewish man, the tree she used to swing from as a child has been cut down for firewood. She thinks it wrong that her tree was sacrificed so that "a rich Jew" can warm his toes by the fire. Otherwise, this is a fine additon to fiction collections.-Luana Ellis, Jamestown Community Coll. Lib., Olean, N.Y.