Marianne is a young girl who is bedridden with a long-term illness. She draws a picture to fill her time, and finds that she spends her dreams within the picture she has drawn. As time goes by, she becomes sicker, and starts to spend more and more time trapped within her fantasy world, and her attempts to make things better by adding to and crossing out things in the drawing make things progressively worse. Her only companion in her dreamworld is a boy called Mark, who is also a long-term invalid in the real world.
Catherine Storr's later novel Marianne and Mark was a sequel to Marianne Dreams.
It is thought that the house that Marianne dreams of is based on a house in the village of Avebury, Wiltshire. This house looks as if has been drawn by a child, with small, very high up windows.All around the house are the menacing prehistoric standing stones of Avebury Stone Circle.
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
Marianne Dreams has been the basis of several film, TV and radio adaptations, including the 1972 British ITV children's TV series Escape Into Night (which was quite faithful to the novel), and the movie Paperhouse (which was less so). The author adapted it herself as an opera libretto in 1999: the first performance of the opera Marianne Dreams took place in 2004 with music by the British composer Andrew Lowe Watson. Will Tuckett will direct a new adaptation by Moira Buffini at the Almeida Theatre in December 2007.