I’m not sure I’ve ever actually read the classic Dickens story A Christmas Carol from beginning to end. Sure I’ve seen the adaptations, but I’m not as familiar with it as I would like to be. So when Miss Marley, an imagined prequel to A Christmas Carol landed on my doorstep a few weeks ago, I was worried I may not have enough knowledge to fully appreciate it. I still haven’t read A Christmas Carol, but now that I’ve read Miss Marley, I’m excited to familiarize myself with the Dickens classic because I fully enjoyed Lafaye’s interpretation of the famous characters.
We are placed in the shoes of Clara Belle Marley, an imagined sister to Jake Marley, Scrooge’s business partner. We learn that Clara and Jake were born into a wealthy family, only to lose both their parents in unfortunate circumstances, then tossed out onto the street by an unfeeling Uncle. While homeless and scrounging to feed themselves, a bit of luck shines upon them (somewhat dubious luck) and they build themselves a business of lending money to the poor, making a decent amount of money in the process. Clara, being the more empathetic of the two, begins to question the morality of what they’re doing as she witnesses their clients losing health, children and home in an effort pay off their debts. But Jake has steeled himself to these woes and focuses only on one thing; financial stability at all costs.
This is a book best read during the holidays because all the pivotal scenes happen during Christmas time. There’s also a parallel Christmas Carol-like scene that happens on Christmas Eve again which is always fun. The story itself is quite melancholy (as you would probably expect) but there are enough joyous scenes to keep us in lighter spirits while reading. The character of Clara is well drawn and likeable, and the plot is easy to follow and believable, plus it’s a novella, so it’s nice and short!
The messaging in this book is obvious yet positive, as many Christmas stories tend to be (hello Hallmark movies!). And aside from there being a few sad, unfortunate events in the book, there is also a sad story about the author. Vanessa Lafaye passed away while writing this book, so her friend Rebecca Mascull finished it for her, and she details how she did this in the afterword. The story of how the two writers met and became friends is quite heartwarming, and from a reader’s perspective, you couldn’t tell that two different people wrote this book, the sections flowed together perfectly, and the voice seemed consistent from start to finish. So if you’re feeling festive, snuggle up next to the fire, put the kettle on and settle in to read a delightful holiday story with Miss Marley.