Mr. Dickens and His Carol – The Literary Salon

It’s that time of year again – time for me to blog about one of my favorite books, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Recently, my library book-club chose Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva – a fictionalized account of how this famous book came to be written.

Publishers Blurb: Charles Dickens is not feeling the Christmas spirit. His newest book is an utter flop, the critics have turned against him, relatives near and far hound him for money. While his wife plans a lavish holiday party for their ever-expanding family and circle of friends, Dickens has visions of the poor house. But when his publishers try to blackmail him into writing a Christmas book to save them all from financial ruin, he refuses. And a serious bout of writer’s block sets in.

Frazzled and filled with self-doubt, Dickens seeks solace in his great palace of thinking, the city of London itself. On one of his long night walks, in a once-beloved square, he meets the mysterious Eleanor Lovejoy, who might be just the muse he needs. As Dickens’ deadlines close in, Eleanor propels him on a Scrooge-like journey that tests everything he believes about generosity, friendship, ambition, and love. The story he writes will change Christmas forever.

Discussion: I’ve blogged before (see link) about The Man Who Invented Christmas, by Les Standiford, a non-fiction book which delved into the history of Dickens classic tale, and the inspiration for the plot and characters. Ms. Silva’s book is historical fiction, and common to the genre, she has taken great liberties, first in imagining his muse – a lady he met on the streets of London during his customary night-time wanderings while plotting out his books. Having read several biographies of Dickens life I’m fairly certain no such woman existed, but as he is reputed to have left his wife and ten children for a much younger actress towards the end of his life, perhaps that is where she got the idea? In this book his wife and children depart for Scotland, angry over Dickens decision to pay an impromptu visit to his first love, and he is left alone to ponder his problems. (Serves him right – maybe he was a bit of a player?) Second, we’re a hundred pages in before the woman-of-mystery-muse is introduced, and not one word has yet been written, but as I recall Dickens wrote his novella over the course of six weeks, not two as she says. I guess I like my historical fiction to be somewhat factual. Third, was the inspiration for Scrooge, Dickens himself? The idea is intriguing, and she has a plausible explanation for the age difference, but somehow it just doesn’t translate.

The book jacket describes the author as a writer and screenwriter from Idaho, and she mentions several near misses in selling the script to Hollywood. As this and the Standiford book (a much better book, if a mediocre movie) came out the same year (2017), she decided to adapt it into a novel instead. That must be frustrating for an author – to find out someone else has a similar idea, especially after you’ve poured your heart into it. For a debut novel, it is well-written, in a style somewhat reminiscent of Dickens.

As I’m only half way through, it wouldn’t be fair to critique it too harshly, but it’s light fluffy fare – but then sometimes that’s exactly what you need, especially at Christmas. Save the heavy stuff for the fruitcake. I’m not sure why the book-club chose this, but it’s no fault of the librarians, as they’re limited to the book club kits purchased by someone else. Perhaps it was just a seasonal selection which sounded promising. The chapters are short, the plot thin, and I’m not sure what there would have been to discuss but as the book-club is now virtual, perhaps they just toasted with some hot rum punch and wished everyone a Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas and God Bless Us Everyone!

(Edited to add – I stayed up late last night and finished it, and the last fifty pages and ending were surprisingly good! – so I would give it a 3 out of 5)

15 thoughts on “Mr. Dickens and His Carol – The Literary Salon

  1. Anne says:

    Now that my daughter and her family are with us, the Christmas cheer is rising! I hope your festive period will be a happy and meaningful one too. Thank you for your comments about this book – which I think I will avoid. I generally find your reviews refreshingly honest and interesting.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joni says:

      Thanks Anne! How lovely to have your family home after such a crazy year. Wishing you a merry holiday season with lots of fun and good food! Re the book – well, if I wasn’t already half way through I would abandon it, but as I didn’t have time to finish it before Christmas and didn’t have another post ready, I thought I would post it anyway. I’ll finish it next week….maybe it will get better. Happy Holidays!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ally Bean says:

    I’m not familiar with this book, but considering how little I know about Mr. Dickens it sounds like a good way to learn about him, lightly. His name is so synonymous with Christmas. I wonder what he’d have to say to that? Lots probably. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Yes, he was very wordy. I’m not a big Dickens fan but I do love A Christmas Carol. I have to say though that this novel lacks something, but as I’m now 3/4 of the way through I’ll finish it, although I’m now at the part where his first draft was stolen and he’s now re-writing it in two days?? I enjoyed The Man Who Invented Christmas more, as it was non-fiction and factual, but the movie was a bore. Happy Holidays Ally!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dave says:

    I’m curious if you have a favorite version of the movie, Joni? I’d have to rewatch a few of them to be sure, but my preference lies among the older makes, the ones in black-and-white. Also, I have the entire Dickens collection sitting on my bookshelf, and one of these years I’m going to dive in. I’d think “A Christmas Carol” would be a great place to begin.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      I like the 1951 black and white version with Alastair Sim as Scrooge the best. There’s an old 1939 version we used to watch when we were kids but they never show it anymore, but the Tiny Tim and Bob Crachit were better. I’ve never seen any of the newer versions with George C Scott etc. If you want to dive into Dickens A Christmas Carol is the best one to start with, as it is only 100 pages (a novella really) and not as wordy as the rest of his books. I remember reading A Tale of Two Cities and Olive Twist in high school, both good but slow going.

      Like

  4. Linda Schaub says:

    [Interesting – I am behind here and scrolling down to find where I left off and I see this post – I know it wasn’t here last week … unless I am just getting old.] I can’t say I read the entire “A Christmas Carol” but did see a very old film of it a long time ago. I remember Tiny Tim in it. That was years ago. Well at least you said you finished it and gave it a 3 out of 5 … my favorite line in this post: “Save the heavy stuff for the fruitcake. “

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joni says:

      That’s okay Linda – it might not have shown up. The movie very closely follows the book. I like the 1951 black and white version with Alastair Sim the best, but haven’t seen any of the newer versions. The book I reviewed had a better ending than I expected, but was really nothing to rave about, but having started into it I felt I had to finish.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        I had that happening for a while where posts disappeared for a few hours, or half the day, then returned – it may have been me too. I did see you finished it and yes any time you invest that much time in a book, might as well finish it. I hope to read most of this weekend. I wanted to do a quick post for tomorrow for my year-end mileage tonight and just add whatever I walked tomorrow to it, but I worked until 8:00 – something rare, but it still messed up my evening and I will now not get to Reader as it’s late. One more nice weather day and then the bottom falls out. Good weekend to be inside … my last weekend to myself as I must start working in the house one entire weekend day. It’s too disorganized in here right now.

        Liked by 1 person

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