“On that unseasonably warm November day at One Devonshire Terrace, Christmas was not in his head at all.” first line from Mr. Dickens and His Carol.
This is an entertaining take on how Charles Dickens may have come up with writing his famous Christmas story. The author, Samantha Silva, included some facts along with her fiction. I watched an interview with the author on a YouTube channel recently and it took her 15 years to write this novel. It started out as a screenplay that she sold four times but it failed to be produced so she re-wrote as a novel. The author is a writer and screenwriter based in Idaho and this is her debut novel.
The story opens with Charles Dickens who was a rock star for his time. He lived in a spectacular family home with his five children and a wife in labor with their sixth child. He has been riding a high with his success and being a generous man he has been helping both family, friends, and charities financially and happy to do so. Until he is told by his publisher that his most recent work – Chuzzlewit is not selling.
The publisher blackmails Dickens into writing another book before Christmas or they will deduct a portion of his sales to cover their losses. Which might not have been so bad but Christmas was only a few weeks away. At first Dickens refuses to be told what to do by his publisher. That works until he realizes how much his debt currently is and that if he did allow them to cut his sales that it could ruin him financially.
Dickens receives a letter from the woman who left him for another man when he was younger. She broke his heart but her letter tells him she must see him and foolishly he agrees. He soon regrets it but before he knows it the woman has stopped by his own home and speaks with his wife, asking her to have him autograph the letter she’d sent. Mrs. Dickens did not take that very well.
In the middle of planning their Christmas celebration with painters re-painting the front door and entry way, food being delivered for their annual party, and a tree delivered to actually be put inside their home, which was something new to the Victorians; he starts realizing that he may not have a choice about writing the book. His wife takes the children to Scotland with her family, telling him he is no longer the man she married and leaves him home alone.
Dickens has always had a habit of walking many miles at night to work through his troubles and finds himself at the very Inn where he’d written his first story. It reminds him of his earlier relationship that had gone wrong. Though his former lady friend hadn’t been a muse in the usual sense, he had succeeded just to prove her wrong. Now he feels as if he has no muse.
During his nightly walks he meets a younger actress he’d met briefly while he was a young actor on a small town square in London. He soon starts to think she may be the muse he is seeking. They are attracted to each other but both agree that nothing can come of it but they do become friends. During the telling of this story, we are introduced to the major characters from A Christmas Carol.
This was a delightful holiday story. After watching the interview, much of what was written was pulled from his biography. Chuzzlewit did fail and his publisher did request a book because of a clause in his contract. He had an old girlfriend who he felt had been his muse, who had left him for a man she felt could provide better for her and forced Dickens to prove her wrong. This story has an interesting twist at the end that was fitting for a holiday tale about a ghost story.
I loved the way the author weaved characters into this novel who became important characters in A Christmas Carol, like Tiny Tim, Cratchit, Marley, and of course Scrooge. This will be a keeper on my shelf. I may not read it every year but possibly every other. I do think I will add A Christmas Carol to my December list for 2021. Though I have seen several movie versions, I haven’t actually ever read the novel. Now I will have a quest to find a nice collectible edition.
I have been enjoying the days leading up to Christmas. Even though we will not be spending the day with our children, I have attempted to shop, decorate, and cook a few things for me and the hubby. It has cut into my reading time so probably will not meet my monthly goal of four books read this month. I hope you are finding some joy in this most difficult time. I wish you and yours a most glorious Christmas or whatever holiday you may be celebrating. I hope you find peace in your hearts and maybe a tiny bit of time to read a good book.
Until next time,