All during the month of December, we’re reviewing books that celebrate the season. Enjoy!
Mr. Dickens and His Carol
Samantha Silva (Adult Fiction)
Throughout history, authors have credited some of their most famous works to muses: Dante had Beatrice Portinari; F. Scott Fitzgerald had his wife, Zelda Sayre; and Charles Dickens has a poor seamstress by the name of Eleanor Lovejoy.
Dickens leads an abundantly blessed and expensive lifestyle, and between his growing household, numerous philanthropic endeavors, and covering the debts of relatives, the coffers are quickly running low. Despite past successes, Dickens’ newest book is selling poorly and the fast-approaching Christmas holiday is proving to be not so merry or bright. Threatening to withhold future pay, his publisher insists Dickens write a “Christmas book” in just a matter of weeks. Overwhelmed, under pressure, and fresh out of ideas, it’s enough to make even the great Boz Dickens say, “Bah, humbug.”
Weaving bits of facts with threads of fancy, Samantha Silva gives readers a wonderful behind-the-scenes look into one of the world’s most beloved Christmas tales. The origins of Ebenezer Scrooge, Jacob Marley, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim are all so plausible, that you forget this is a work of fiction and instead allow yourself to be dropped into this charming story like a cinnamon stick into a bowl of wassail punch. As you read, you can begin to imagine and appreciate the mounting pressures and expectations placed upon a man so highly heralded yet so hopelessly human. As Scrooge was cursed with malevolence, Dickens was equally cursed with benevolence and when life proved to be too much, he sought serenity, solitude, and anonymity. Silva tells us that Dickens dabbled in magic and, at one point in her story, he noted that behind every illusion, fiction, and lie, was our great desire to believe. This leads us to reconsider the idea that perhaps even a character as detestable as Ebenezer Scrooge wanted desperately to believe in something or someone but simply lacked the energy or the will to do so. Like his creator, perhaps Ebenezer Scrooge was a man eventually beaten down by the burdens of life.
Near the end of the book, Dickens is in his darkest hour and Eleanor attempts to remind him about the importance of his books and what Christmas is truly all about: “And the colder it was, the nearer we were to each other, and to the truth of Christmas. The truth of your books…That despite what is cold and dark in the world, perhaps it is a loving place after all.” It’s easy to see why Silva’s book is more fiction than fact, for with words like these, a muse like Eleanor Lovejoy would indeed be difficult to find…even by the great Charles Dickens.
* Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com