The week before Christmas is the perfect time to curl up with a holiday story. Whether it be a long drive cross country, a few stolen moments between festivities, or a quiet afternoon by the tree, a Christmas novel is the best way to warm the heart and get you into the spirit of the season. Over the next seven days I will be sharing the books I am indulging in this season, and hopefully you find one that speaks to you too.
“And applause, yes!” he exclaimed. “Because we have given every man, woman, and child an hour or two to forget the real world, and let them rejoin it with their sense of wonder restored. Never mind the press of people, the poking umbrellas, and irreconcilable cabs. We are all players in the great pantomime of life!”
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is like many, one of my all time favorite Christmas tales, a story I revisit every few years to reflect on and remember the meaning of Christmas. The one and only debut I made in a play was a remake of A Christmas Carol (I was a backup dancer at Fezziwig’s ball) so it is a story near and dear to my heart. Tons of remakes and spinoffs have been made about the book and events surrounding it, but Samantha Silva’s Mr. Dickens and His Carol is the best one I have seen in a long time.
The debt collectors are literally at Charles Dickens’ door. The Boz’s Chuzzlewit series has turned into an utter failure and the family is short on income and long on month as Christmas approaches. Catherine Dickens is busy planning a lavish Christmas party, his brother and father are hounding him for money, and every charity and street urchin in London knows Dickens’ face. Dickens’ publishers present him with one escape: write a Christmas novel, or it’s onto the streets the whole lot goes.
With less than a month before Christmas, can Dickens pull off the greatest feat of his career? Mr. Dickens and His Carol looks into those bleak weeks, and at the series of events that sparks what will become the greatest Christmas tale (after the original) ever told.
The writing in this story was rich, and I could just envision myself on the streets of London with Mr. Dickens and his characters. Silva does a fantastic job at portraying the things Mr. Dickens must have felt in that time: the worry and confusion, the fear and frustration, and ultimately the triumph. With elements of magic and whimsy the story sweeps you away to another time and place.
A minor thing that bothered me was the lack of depth in other characters: Dickens was exquisitely rendered, but the supporting characters seemed a little flat, like a theater backdrop to Mr. Dickens’ experience. Perhaps this was intentional, I can imagine Mr. Dickens being entirely self absorbed during the winter of 1843, but for someone who loves rich characters it was a little bit disappointing.
Note: This work was a love letter to Dickens, and while it did contain rich historical details, autobiography it is not. But if you’re a purist don’t let that deter you, because this book was all about the spirit of the season. I think Dickens would have been proud of this remake. 4.5 out of 5 stars.