A huge thanks to Jo Thomas at Harper Collins Publishers ltd. and to Rebecca Mascull for an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
Synopsis (Taken from Goodreads)
‘Exquisite’ Veronica Henry
Before A Christmas Carol there was… Miss Marley
A seasonal tale of kindness and goodwill
Orphans Clara and Jacob Marley live by their wits, scavenging for scraps in the poorest alleyways of London, in the shadow of the workhouse. Every night, Jake promises his little sister ‘tomorrow will be better’ and when the chance to escape poverty comes their way, he seizes it despite the terrible price.
And so Jacob Marley is set on a path that leads to his infamous partnership with Ebenezer Scrooge. As Jacob builds a fortress of wealth to keep the world out, only Clara can warn him of the hideous fate that awaits him if he refuses to let love and kindness into his heart…
In Miss Marley, Vanessa Lafaye weaves a spellbinding Dickensian tale of ghosts, goodwill and hope – a perfect prequel to A Christmas Carol.
About the Author
Vanessa Lafaye was an American born author living in England. A thirst for adventure brought her to Europe in 1987, first to France and then England. She spent many years in academic publishing, including the Oxford University Press. She wrote two acclaimed historical novels set in Florida, Summertime published in 2015 followed by First Light. Her final novel will be published posthumously. Lafaye was the founder of the Marlborough Community Choir in Wiltshire, England. She detailed the impact of living with cancer in her popular blog Living While Dying.
Vanessa sadly lost her battle and passed away in February 2018 and her good friend Rebecca Mascull, (with whom she had shared a passion for Dickens) was asked to complete the story (Chapter 10 and onward).
Wow! This novel is just a beautiful piece of storytelling and is guaranteed to take you on an emotional roller coaster. It’s worthy of much better words than I can offer but I’ll try my best to do it justice.
To be honest, I’ve never read A Christmas Carol. I know the story well and have witnessed it in many forms but I’ve never gotten around to reading the full Dickens version.
When this book flashed onto my Twitter feed there was no escaping it. The simple but elegant cover made me stop and stare and I came to the realisation that I wanted it even before I read the title or blurb. As I read snippets of reviews, heard the excitement over Twitter and took a closer look I was desperate to read it and gave a little squeal when I was rewarded with a copy to review.
I was hooked from the start. Written in a style and with such description that immediately transports you to Victorian England, the novel is told in three parts.
Part one tells us of Jake and Clara’s heartbreaking fall from the life of wealth and privilege to a life on the streets eating scraps and barely surviving. Until, a risky opportunity presents itself, changing their lives for the better and the worse.
Part two moves onto a time when Jake has a job at Fizzywig’s with Ebenezer Scrooge and Clara works in a toy shop. Once close, their lives begin to wonder along different paths with Clara finding love and happiness in helping others and Jacob becoming more and more cold-hearted and focused on money.
If I wrote about part three it would be giving things away a little too much but it’s so cleverly written and ties in seamlessly with it’s sequel.
In Clara Marley, we get a strong female protagonist but not at the expensive of loosing the historical relevance. She is fiercely loyal to her brother, despite what he becomes and manages to stay kind and humble towards others. She is not afraid to speak for what is right but I feel she is indebted to her brother so much, it’s difficult for her to be angry with him or stand up to him.
In Jacob we find a man whose live is changed by circumstance and by a promise he makes to Clara as a child. Despite his misgivings and treatment of others, it’s difficult to dislike him. He never falls short of his promise to Clara and genuinely wants to best for her. It’s easy to feel sympathy towards him and I spent a lot of time pondering the questions; how far would you go to protect and care for a loved one, even if it meant loosing yourself? Can Jacob really be held responsible for how he changes?
In support we meet Tom Woodburn, the gentle and loving love interest of Clara and of course a young Ebenezer Scrooge, who is a background character but it was written brilliantly to show the reader subtly how Scrooge changes throughout the book and it fits in perfectly with the information we learn in ‘A Christmas Carol’.
Overall, this book is a roller coaster of emotions and I’m not sure I’ve yet to work out which one is dominant or how I feel bout it myself.
I highly recommend this book to everyone. I’m giving it all the stars and it’s made even more beautiful that it was jointly written by two very good friends with a love of Dickens.