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Before A Christmas Carol, there was….. Miss Marley

Miss Marley was a real delight.  A perfect Christmas read, and if I didn’t know better I would have said this was writtten first and Dickens added a sequel.  A truly delightful tale of how Jacob Marley became the ghost who rattled chains at his aged friend Ebeneezer Scrooge – with the links forged to look like cashboxes and padlocks. Marley traveled the earth in limbo for 7 years before going to visit Scrooge to show what could happen to him also, if he didn’t change his misser like ways. The ghosts of past, present and future show Scrooge what has, could and will happen if he doesn’t alter his lonely lifestyle in Dickens A Christmas Carol and Miss Marley tells why Jacob became that man.  Through the eyes of his sister Clara-Belle Marley – a character created and brought to life by Vanessa Lafaye

When both their parents die leaving young Clara and Jake as orphans, they are torn away from their comfortable home & housemaid Dorothy, taken to the workhouse and left there by their Uncle, only to escape and end up living off scraps on the street.  When a chance Murder gives them the opportunity to better themselves again, they take it.  This is the start of Jakes heart hardening to the world.   Jacob as he then is known works every hour he can to keep a roof over his and young Clara’s head, they start their own business.  And soon earn enough to ensure they are feed and can stay in work. 

Even in the post it exuded Christmas 

Clara dreams of living back at her childhood home on Hampstead Heath, whilst Jacob starts building his empire with his newly acquainted work colleague Ebeneezer (yes, I too, can’t read the name without the song running through my head) Scrooge.   Clara meets and becomes betrothed to Tom, a Tea stall holder with aspirations of tea shops on every street corner.  However, Jacob doesn’t take Tom’s dreams into account when he askes for capital to do this and states that business is business to Clara.  When disaster strikes, to pay his debts back to Jacob, Tom heads to India.  Clara waits to hear from him saying he is returning.   Sadly for Clara this never happens, her health deteriorates and we see Clara die, having finally forgiven Jacob.  

Claras ghost returns to warn Jacob, of the trail of death and sorrow he leaves from calling in his debts from his money lending business.  He sees no ill gain and continues in this way till his death and enevitable chained limbo. 

This book starts bleakly and winds its way, into being a warming and rather sumptuous read.  Clara-Belle Marley has many woes yet still sees the good in the world.   A lesson many people could learn from. 

Vanessa Lafaye died whilst writing this book, and close friend and mutual Dickens lover Rebecca Mascull finished it, though takes no glory until the end few pages, a fitting tribute indeed, as its fiends and family that make Christmas what it truly can be. 

A Fab 4/5 stars from me.  

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