Louis Bayard (Adult Fiction)
Tiny Tim is tiny no longer. The iron brace and crutch have long been replaced by an achy knee and slight limp…a mere lilt, really. It is December 1860 and although Mr. Timothy Cratchit, now a man of twenty-three, lives off the monetary magnanimity of his “Uncle” Ebenezer Scrooge, he dredges the River Thames for treasure-yielding corpses and lives in a brothel where he tutors the Madam in reading. It’s a satisfactory life, one in which Tim has grown used to until he comes upon one and then two dead girls, each with the letter “G” branded on her upper arm. When Tim meets Philomela, a ten-year-old street orphan, he realizes that he must do everything he can in order to protect her for she, like the other two girls, bears the same “G” on her arm.
I must admit that it took me a while to connect with (and eventually enjoy) this book. Charles Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol is one of my favorite stories and so it was distressing to see the iconic and beloved character of Tiny Tim reduced to desecrating corpses and spending his days living off charity. I don’t fault Louis Bayard for building a story off an already-established fictional character. Many authors have done the same in the past and will continue to do so in the future as long as there is a willing and interested audience; however, Bayard’s choice of using a character as cherished, wholesome, and pure as Tiny Tim and then casting him into London’s dark and dreary underbelly seems almost sacrosanct and readers of this story, who adore Tim, may feel a little duped in the process. Luckily, patience proves to be a virtue and readers can rest assured that Bayard eventually gives us the loyal, spirited, and resilient lad that we’ve come to know and love.
Billed as a “literary thriller”, Mr. Timothy does not disappoint in delivering danger, intrigue, and fast-paced drama. The story is a bit slow out of the starting gate and seems to drift as multiple characters are introduced and a number of storylines play out. At about the midway point, things seem to get their bearing and the action moves at a steady and satisfying pace until the end. Although Dickens wouldn’t have imagined his young hero delving into police corruption, child trafficking, and prostitution, he would be gratified to know that his Tim is armed with a strong moral center, a kindly heart, and nerves of steel…not to mention a leg that makes for a quite dependable barometer.
In A Christmas Carol, Tiny Tim was known for saying, “God bless us, every one!” This phrase was repeated at the end of the book to signify Scrooge’s change of heart. Like Scrooge, I experienced my own change of heart and am grateful I decided to give this book a second chance. At times, this wasn’t an easy thing to do for Bayard really puts poor Tim through the wringer, but I’m glad I stayed with Mr. Timothy and accompanied him to the very end of his adventure. So in honor of second chances—which are indeed a rare and precious thing—I’ll end by simply saying, “God bless us, everyone one!”
*Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com
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