The Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol, is one of my favorite books. I love the language, the sly wit, and the simple but timeless story of the redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge. I will confess I’ve never given much thought to what came next but this book is here to answer that question. For those familiar with A Christmas Carol you will immediately notice the descriptions and setup in the sequel is the same as the first book. The book is divided into the same chapters, or Staves, with even the same titles. The language is very similar to Dickens’ style and Lovett mimics him well. A Dickens scholar could probably tear this apart and see the flaws that point to imitation but to my unskilled eyes it read true.
The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge begins on the hottest day of the summer in London, twenty years after that fateful night in the life of Ebenezer Scrooge. True to his word he has never forgotten the promise he made to the Spirits and keeps Christmas in his heart all the year through, much to the annoyance of his family and co-workers. Immediately Lovett sets up an inversion of the original story. Now Scrooge is the one full of gladness and charity, almost to a manic degree, and encourages others to live that way as well. His vast wealth is gone, having given it away over the years to people and institutions in need. Bob Cratchit is now partner to Scrooge, and dedicated to keeping the firm solvent while Scrooge works to improve the lives of the less fortunate.
Since that fateful Christmas Eve, Ebenezer’s ghostly old friend, Jacob Marley, has visited Ebenezer over the years. On the June night our new story takes place Marley laments that he will never be free of his wretched chains. Scrooge vows to help his friend by calling on the three Spirits of Christmas to assist him in a plan to bring about a change in four different men, same that was done in him years before.
It’s an odd concept and a strange story to be sure. Like A Christmas Carol this is a quick read, so even if you are not as taken by it as the Dickens classic, there is solace in knowing it’s a relatively small time commitment. The story is pleasant enough but ultimately feather light. The power of A Christmas Carol is not only in the transformation and redemption, but seeing how a good man could become closed up to the outside world. The idea behind The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge is that people should not put off charity and awareness to once a year, but practice it all their lives. It’s a good idea and timely, but the solutions presented here don’t serve much practical purpose. Start a foundation, spend more time with your family, and run for office are the rather facile solutions the book offers. Rather than inspire the reader to open their heart (and wallet) to those less fortunate, you are left with a feeling of “What an odd book.”
A Christmas Carol facilitated Scrooge’s redemption by showing him those people closest to him so that he could see himself through their eyes. This story throws out one anonymous industrial age horror after another to bludgeon the men in to doing what is right. It takes the elegant and subtle pinch of the original and replaces it with a hammer. The trouble is the targets of the attitude adjustment this time are not cut from the same cloth that Scrooge was. They are aware of the troubles of the poor, they are overall good men. The moral of the book seems to be “Caring only at Christmas is not good enough, you must do more!” It’s disheartening and instead of inspiring the reader it is overwhelming. It doesn’t help that the book came out in 2015 yet its primary examples of poverty are debtor prisons, squalid asylums, and hellish work factories circa the last 1800’s.
Happily, this odd little book does nothing to diminish the power of A Christmas Carol. If you have never read it I highly recommend putting it on your reading list this holiday season. If you like it this is certainly an interesting sequel, but in no way essential.