Just before Christmas, a companion novella to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was released. Miss Marley: A Christmas ghost story – a prequel to A Christmas Carol by historical fiction writer Vanessa LaFaye tells her imagined history of Scrooge’s business partner, Jacob Marley. That on its own would be enough. But there are more layers to the tale and how it came to be.
I’ll cut to the chase: It’s a terrific story well told. LaFaye gave Jacob a sister, Clara, and orphaned them under harsh, cruel circumstances. Their experiences turned Clara warm and soft while Jacob became cold and selfish, the perfect business partner for Ebeneezer Scrooge. Lost loves, poor decisions and the times they lived in conspired to create the armour of heartlessness that some people wore for survival.
The author was already ill well into writing the book and knew she might not finish it but, damn, she wanted to. After her death, her friend and fellow writing-club member, Rebecca Mascull, finished the story with the blessing of Vanessa’s editor and her husband. I defy anyone to tell where one left off and the other picked up.
I enjoyed this book even more than I thought I would. The character of Jacob Marley never crossed my mind. I’ve never wondered how he came about, who his family were and what might have happened to him to make him want to partner with the likes of Ebeneezer Scrooge. But I’m glad that Vanessa LaFaye did.