Charles Dickens is on top of his game – or so he thinks. He’s recently polished a new manuscript and he’s looking forward to welcoming a new baby into the world just in time for Christmas. But then his publishers burst his bubble. His latest book is a flop and he urgently needs to bring in some cash. They insist he write a new, festive book if his career is set to continue.
With financial pressures coming from his family’s demands for an exuberant Christmas and his relative’s unending requests for loans, the pressure is on. He seeks inspiration from the city of London and, while walking its streets, meets an enchanting woman who becomes his latest muse. But is she really what she first seems, and will he finish his story in time?
Oh, this is a lovely, cosy read for Christmas! I love A Christmas Carol (I penned a retelling of it in my Christmas short story collection) and I was so intrigued to read this fictional backstory, uncaring as to how accurate a portrayal it was of Dickens’ life. I understand that some of the novel is inspired by fact, but the vast majority of it is fiction and it’s utterly charming.
Dickens himself is a generous, kind-hearted soul at some points, and a curmudgeonly old git at others. I liked that he wasn’t pitched as a perfect character; it would have been easy to idolise him, and it was interesting that Silva had him make several morally questionable decisions and be a generally insufferable bastard along the way. Despite his flaws, he is immensely likeable; as the pressure on him mounts, he descends into a wholly Scrooge-like creature and thus becomes his own inspiration for his famous Christmas tale.
There’s an interesting twist right at the end of the book which, naturally, I won’t spoil, but it genuinely took me by surprise. It transformed the novel from a period drama into something wholly more magical, which I totally loved.
I realise I’m making this recommendation a little late with Christmas just three days away, but if you have the chance to read this during the festive season, do give it a go. It’s a warm, endearing story that totally got me in the mood for mince pies and mulled wine.