Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

mr dickens.jpgTitle: Mr. Dickens and His Carol

Author: Samantha Silva

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Faber Factory Plus/Allison and Busby/Allen and Unwin

Published: 22nd November 2017

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 320

Price: $24.99

Synopsis: ‘A charming, comic, and ultimately poignant Christmas tale about the creation of the most famous Christmas tale ever written. It’s as foggy and haunted and redemptive as the original; it’s all heart, and I read it in a couple of ebullient, Christmassy gulps.’ Anthony Doerr, bestselling author of All The Light We Cannot See

For Charles Dickens, each Christmas has been better than the last. His novels are literary blockbusters, avid fans litter the streets and he and his wife have five happy children and a sixth on the way. But when Dickens’ latest book, Martin Chuzzlewit, is a flop, the glorious life threatens to collapse around him.
His publishers offer an ultimatum: either he writes a Christmas book in a month, or they will call in his debts, and he could lose everything. Grudgingly, and increasingly plagued by self-doubt, Dickens meets the muse he needs in Eleanor Lovejoy and her young son, Timothy. With time running out, Dickens is propelled on a Scrooge-like journey through Christmases past and present.
Mr. Dickens and His Carol is a charming, comic, and ultimately poignant Christmas tale about the creation of the most famous Christmas tale ever written. It’s as foggy and haunted and redemptive as the original; it’s all heart, and I read it in a couple of ebullient, Christmassy gulps.’ Anthony Doerr, bestselling author of All The Light We Cannot See

~*~

Mr Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva focuses on what drove Dickens to write his most famous story, A Christmas Carol in 1843. In this novel, Dickens has been approached by his publishers, whose grave news of the failure of Martin Chuzzlewit over in America starts to eat away at him, and his usually charitable donations he gives out. For economic reasons, they encourage Dickens to write a Christmas story. In Silva’s version, these events happen not long before Christmas, with the book published days before Christmas. Silva has Dickens go through a similar transformation to Scrooge, though his reasons for wanting to cut back are presented as economic struggles rather than a selfish desire for money. On his journey, Dickens encounters the homeless and impoverished children of London, and a young woman named Eleanor Lovejoy, and her son, Timothy – who inspire the version we know and love today.

This fictional retelling of how Dickens came to write one of the best loved Christmas stories in the world draws from threads of information and biography that the author collected, and showed that someone many people depended on, a man whose heart was big, could be crippled by the very thing his books made social commentary about: poverty, or near poverty. Dickens was plagued by debts at the time, but the demands on his aid and from family didn’t stop – nor did they take him seriously in the novel when he said he couldn’t help. For Dickens, a chance meeting with the Lovejoys gives him the inspiration he needs to write the book that people all around the world know and love today: A Christmas Carol.

The London that Dickens inhabits leaps from the page, fog and all, just as it is in his books. His time alone with the Lovejoys is akin to the journey of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, where Dickens finds his way back to family and Christmas, and the magic in his heart that makes him the kind and generous man everyone knows he is. It is a heart-warming story, and portrays Dickens as merely human, a man who just likes to write and wants the best for his family, but also feels pressure from outside forces to do everything and please everyone. As an aspiring author, one line stuck with me, where Dickens is talking to his publishers and they are telling him what audiences want. His response about writers having to be told what to write by an audience even then shows the pressure authors are under to please an audience of readers. Despite this attitude, Dickens ended up writing a wonderful story that illustrates what Christmas is about, and the meaning of family and humanity, reflecting the attitudes of what it meant to be rich and poor in Victorian London.

I enjoyed this, even though it was a fictional reimaging of the journey Dickens took to write A Christmas Carol because it allowed an insight into what kind of journeys a writer goes on, and how they come to write certain books. The fog, and the cobblestones were as real as the figures that populated Dickens world and the young pauper boys who followed him around, wanting to put on a play of his work, and wanting to be immortalised as characters on the page. Silva has used research and her imagination in a wonderful union to recreate this time in Dickens’ life, and I will be aiming to read it again this coming December, alongside my other Christmas books.

I read this after Christmas as it arrived in early January from Allen and Unwin, but it is one that will make a great Christmas read, and enjoyable to read beside A Christmas Carol. I loved this book and I think fans of Dickens, lovers of Christmas and literature will enjoy this delightful book.

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Father Christmas’s Fake Beard by Terry Pratchett

Title: Father Christmas’s Fake Beard

father christmas beard

Author: Terry Pratchett

Genre: Short Stories, Christmas, Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Penguin/Double Day

Published: 16th October 2017

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 204

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Have you ever wanted Christmas to be different?

Turkey and carols, presents and crackers – they all start to feel a bit . . . samey.

How about a huge exploding mince pie, a pet abominable snowman, or a very helpful partridge in a pear tree? What if Father Christmas went to work at a zoo, or caused chaos in a toy store or, was even, arrested for burglary!?

Dive into the fantastically funny world of Terry Pratchett, for a festive treat like no other. These ten stories will have you laughing, gasping and crying (with laughter) – you’ll never see Christmas in the same way again.

~*~

As the first Terry Pratchett I’ve read, Father Christmas’s Fake Beard was a delightful one to start with. In a series of stories appearing together for the first time in the same collection, Father Christmas’s Fake Beard gives the Christmas holiday a sense of whimsy and humour that differs from so many other Christmas stories we know and love. Within these stories, the treasured and much-loved Christmas icons have been used by Pratchett in new and inventive ways to create entertaining Christmas stories, from a story about Father Christmas’s Fake Beard, told in a series of memos between the store he works at, him and those in charge, to a story about the Twelve Gifts of Christmas, based around the song, where a Prince finds a way to give a Princess twelve different gifts, and finally, a story about Father Christmas trying to find a job to do during the other months of the year he’s not delivering gifts over Christmas. Aimed at children, these stories can be enjoyed by all ages, as each reader and age group will connect with these and the meanings will be different to everyone. Being able to see the hints and nods to traditional Christmas and other aspects within the stories was enjoyable.

From this first encounter of Terry Pratchett’s work, I look forward to reading some more of his work. A posthumous publication, this evokes the magic of Christmas and the unique humour of Pratchett – and as a first time reader, I think makes an intriguing and wonderful introduction to his world of writing.

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Christmas Reads

Christmas Reads

There are many things that I enjoy about Christmas – decorating the tree and house, buying and making new decorations each year, counting the Santa collection and watching it grow year to year, and watching favourite Christmas movies such as Love, Actually, Home Alone, The Santa Clause movies, and The Holiday each year. Amongst these traditions there is another that I have started – reading Christmas stories.

There are many Christmas stories for all ages, and across all genres, though for adults, I have mostly seen romance novels, and as these don’t always take my fancy, I have delved into the wonderful world of Children’s and Young Adult Christmas stories, short stories and the classics.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

christmas carol

Every year, I either read or watch – sometimes both – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I have three movie versions, and attempt to watch them all. Published in 1843, it has been touted as Dickens’ most popular story, and perhaps the most well-known story. The mere mention of the title evokes images of Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, Ebenezer Scrooge, and Jacob Marley. The book opens with the line: “Marley was dead: to begin with.” And from this opening line, we are invited into nineteenth century England during Christmas, to witness a man who goes around grunting “humbug” at those who wish to give Christmas greetings, and whose greed leads to the ghost of Marley warning him, and being taken on a journey by three ghosts: The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come to implore Scrooge to change his ways and keep Christmas in his heart all year around. A classic that has been reimagined many times, still with the same base story, A Christmas Carol is said to have reinvented Christmas, something explored in the book by Les Standiford, The Man Who Invented Christmas.

Some links about Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol:

 

https://www.charlesdickensinfo.com/christmas-carol/

 

http://time.com/4597964/history-charles-dickens-christmas-carol/

 

Father Christmas’s Fake Beard by Terry Pratchett

 father christmas beard

Father Christmas’s Fake Beard by Terry Pratchett is a new purchase this year for me, and the first of Pratchett’s books I have read – with some others on my pile to read at a later stage. It caught my eye in the bookstore window, and it has been published posthumously – Pratchett passed away in March 2015, and many of these stories were published under different titles or without titles. As I am still reading it, I have decided to leave my full review until I have completed it but so far, I am enjoying it. Full of all the Christmas themes we know and love but with a unique twist, I am looking forward to the remaining stories and tracking down a copy of Hogfather after Christmas. These short stories are funny, and full of imagination and intrigue that make Christmas fun. I admit to having been savouring these stories a little to try and finish over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – and as this, and A Christmas Carol, and Murder on Christmas Eve are my main Christmas books so far, I have had to stretch them out – but it has been enjoyable to do so.

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

 hogfather1.jpg

This is one that I am hoping to buy in the next few weeks, and read as soon as I can for the first time. It has been recommended to me by good friends, and I have searched for it instore, as my preference is to support my local business. Pratchett’s website describes it as including every secular Christmas tradition but with a few twists. As this is one I am yet to read, I have included the synopsis and look forward to reading it when I find it.

“Susan had never hung up a stocking. She’d never put a tooth under her pillow in the serious expectation that a dentally inclined fairy would turn up. It wasn’t that her parents didn’t believe in such things. They didn’t need to believe in them. They know they existed. They just wished they didn’t.

There are those who believe and those who don’t. Through the ages, superstition has had its uses. Nowhere more so than in the Discworld where it’s helped to maintain the status quo. Anything that undermines superstition has to be viewed with some caution. There may be consequences, particularly on the last night of the year when the time is turning. When those consequences turn out to be the end of the world, you need to be prepared. You might even want more standing between you and oblivion than a mere slip of a girl – even if she has looked Death in the face on numerous occasions…”

From reading this synopsis from Pratchett’s website, I am looking forward to reading this!

Crime: Murder on Christmas Eve – edited by Cecily Gayford

 murder on xmas eve

In this collection of some of the world’s most well-known crime authors, previously reviewed here, have had stories published or written new stories for this collection, set at Christmas across the decades, interrogating the human mind and what could drive someone to commit crimes at Christmas. A slightly different, darker and grittier take on Christmas stories, it is still fun and enjoyable to read. Much like the previous books, the theme of Christmas is in each story, and is more obvious in some, but nonetheless, each story encapsulates the good and the bad that Christmas can bring out in people.

 

 

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss

 

Another classic Christmas story about the true meaning of Christmas beyond the food, and decorations and traditions we participate in is How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss. It tells the story of the lonely Grinch living above Whoville, disgusted at the cheeriness of the Whos. The premise and reasoning of this is speculated about – that his head may not have been screwed on just right, or that his shoes were too tight. The narrator’s most compelling reason though, is that his heart was two sizes too small. Aimed at children, it uses rhyming and fantastical creatures who celebrate Christmas to teach children the lessons that Scrooge learnt in A Christmas Carol. It also has many film versions, and each draws upon the basics of the story, with some expanding on some aspects of it, but keeping in Seuss’s style.

 

Matt Haig’s A Boy Called Christmas, The Girl Who Saved Christmas and Father Christmas and Me

These three books by Matt Haig, released in recent years, were written for his children, who wanted Christmas stories and had asked questions about what Santa had been like as a boy, a girl who wakes up on the first Christmas ever, and must save Christmas, and the latest one about the adopted child of Santa.

boy who saved christmasA Boy Called Christmas

You are about to read the true story of Father Christmas.

It is a story that proves that nothing is impossible.

A Boy Called Christmas is a tale of adventure, snow, kidnapping, elves, more snow, and a boy called Nikolas, who isn’t afraid to believe in magic.

The Girl Who Saved Christmas

girl who saved christmas

The Girl Who Saved Christmas is my second children’s Christmas book. It’s the sequel to A Boy Called Christmas and tells the story of Father Christmas’s quest to find Amelia, the first child to wake up on the first ever Christmas morning, and stop Christmas, it’s up to Amelia, her new family and the elves to keep Christmas alive. Before it’s too late . . .the only person who can bring back the magic of Christmas.

father christmas & meFather Christmas and Me

It isn’t always easy, growing up as a human in Elfhelm, even if your adoptive parents are the newly married Father Christmas and Mary Christmas.

For one thing, Elf School can be annoying when you have to sing Christmas songs everyday – even in July – and when you fail all your toy-making tests. Also it can get very, very cold.

But when the jealous Easter Bunny and his rabbit army launch an attack to stop Christmas, it’s up to Amelia, her new family and the elves to keep Christmas alive. Before it’s too late . . .

A series that should be good, I am looking forward to getting these to add to my Christmas reading.

Other Christmassy stories

 

Of course, there are many other stories that have Christmas within them. The Christmas holidays play a pivotal part in the Harry Potter series, and in Nevermoor, where it is a month-long celebration, where in chapter seventeen, Saint Nicholas and The Yule Queen “battle” on Christmas Eve – for the fun of the citizens and Morrigan, based on a legend about Christmas in Nevermoor. There are many other examples, such as Little Women, where the opening scene is Christmas. Each story that includes Christmas as part of the plot illustrates the cultural impact of the holiday on literature today.

I look forward to reading the books mentioned that I have not read and reviewing them here, in a special Christmas category.

Merry Christmas and have a great holiday season!

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