Today is my stop on the Miss Marley blog tour and I’m here to share a review of this fantastic prequel to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
‘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…’
I teach A Christmas Carol as part of the English Literature GCSE syllabus and so Dickens’ work is one that I’ve read on many occasions and continued to enjoy each and every time. Miss Marley is a simply delightful addition to the story of Jacob Marley, whose unfortunate fate is addressed in A Christmas Carol as a warning and teaching tool for his business partner, Ebenezer Scrooge. In this captivating prequel, the reader is introduced to Miss Clara Belle Marley, Jacob’s younger sister, the story one that follows their rise from destitute street children on the brink of perishing to Jacob’s partnership in a money lending firm.
A Christmas Carol is a story that many will have encountered in one form or another, the tale one that it is all but impossible to consider the Christmas season without. And yet, despite knowledge of the events of Dickens’ novella, such is the attachment that Lafaye and Mascull draw the reader into having to both Clara and Jacob that it becomes a matter of hoping that his fate can be altered and that he will not make the mistakes that we all know he will fall prey to. Jacob Marley may be the epitome of all that a good and honest man is warned against in A Christmas Carol, yet the character created in Miss Marley to share this fate is not, at first, the cold and soulless creature that he eventually becomes. That the reader feels sympathy for Jacob and wishes for the circumstances of his later life to be averted is one of the novel’s great triumphs and may make one pause to consider whether it is the right man who is ultimately saved, such a believable addition to the story as it is.
Clara Marley is a different sort of soul than her brother, though has the advantage of being the younger sibling, often saving her conscience from dealing directly with much of what he eventually chooses to (though she is the one who initially orchestrates and carries out their money lending). She is more kind and generous than Jacob, yet shares the same kind of steel in her beliefs, her moral compass much less apt to be misdirected than his. Through her, much as with the three spirits of A Christmas Carol, the reader sees the true extent of poverty’s impact in the Victorian era, her sympathy for her fellow man directly contrasted with her brother’s growing lack of interest in the people behind the numbers.
Miss Marley is a wonderful tale that perfectly manages to capture the same magic that has made A Christmas Carol part of the Christmas tradition. Clara is a brave, endearing and much needed female voice who demonstrates warmth and intelligence in equal measure, her presence one that that brings heart to a previously male dominated story. While Dickens’ lack of female voices and presentation of Mrs Cratchit may be perceived to be a thinly veiled slight towards women, Clara’s spirit and determination bring a breath of fresh air to the canon. This isn’t to say that it is a ‘modern’ twist, but a reminder that women have always been clever and capable, no matter the perception of the Victorian male gaze.
Available in hardback, eBook, and audio download, Miss Marley is on sale now and the perfect Christmas read. Thank you, HQ stories, for inviting me to be part of this tour!
Check out the other stops on the tour below!