Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

All during the month of December, we’re reviewing books that celebrate the season.  Enjoy!

Mr Dickens and His Carol

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.

Rating: 4/5

* Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com

 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

It’s Throwback Thursday and we’re reviewing one of literature’s classics!  During the month of December, we’re reviewing books that celebrate the season.  Enjoy!

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol    

Charles Dickens (Adult Fiction)

How does one go about describing Ebenezer Scrooge?  Perhaps our story’s narrator says it best: “Oh!  But he was a tightfisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge!  a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!  Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire, secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.  The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice.”  Yes.  That will do nicely.  But no matter how vile Scrooge is, he has an equal by the name of Jacob Marley, his business partner that’s been dead seven years to the day.  This very night, Marley will pay a spectral visit to Scrooge in hopes of salvaging his former colleague’s soul and thus sparing him from an afterlife laden with rusty chains and regret.

A Christmas Carol is Dickens’ beloved and cherished Christmas song to the world.  First published in 1843, this classic story is divided into staves (or staffs) rather than chapters where every character is a note, every ghostly visit is a movement, and every revelation is a crescendo that builds to the climax when Scrooge realizes the dire consequences of his avarice and malevolence.

There are more than two dozen film adaptations of A Christmas Carol, but nothing quite compares to reading and absorbing Dickens’ original words, which contain a few subtleties that are otherwise lost when presented visually.  One example is that prior to Marley’s visit, the characters of Bob Cratchit and Fred are nameless and simply given titles such “clerk in the tank” or “Scrooge’s nephew”.  This omission would lead the reader to conclude that these characters are inconsequential; however, it is only later in the book when we realize what an important part these individuals will eventually play in Ebenezer Scrooge’s road to redemption.

I love the many moral and spiritual lessons we can glean from A Christmas Carol: “In order to fully realize life, one must love and be loved in return”; “Learning begins with listening”; “It’s important to learn from the mistakes of others”; or, if you’re a businessowner, “Treat your employees nicely”.  My personal favorite is taken from Marley’s visit with Scrooge where the former says, “I am here tonight to warn you that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate.”  In an uncertain world where, despite careful planning or our best intentions, life doesn’t always go the way we wish, and it is therefore important to remember that if there is a chance—no matter how slight or remote—then there is still hope.

Rating: 5/5

* Book cover image attributed to www.scholastic.com