Generations have grown up with the tales spun by Charles Dickens. Characters like Ebenezer Scrooge and young Tiny Tim have become cultural icons, and a reminder to take stock of our lives, celebrate each day and care for those around us.
Just in time for this holiday season, Samantha Silva offers up “Mr. Dickens and His Carol,” a whimsical novel that transports us to Dickens’ time. In her book, Silva re-imagines the twists and turns that led Dickens to write his famous story, “A Christmas Carol.”
Charles Dickens was a literary rock star in Victorian London, and when we meet Dickens in Silva’s novel, he and his wife have five rambunctious children, another on the way, and a home filled with every comfort they can imagine. Yet, he is miserable. His latest book, “Martin Chuzzlewit,” is a flop and his charmed life is on the verge of collapse. His publishers are hounding him to quickly pen a Christmas story to pay off his debts, but he is hardly in the Christmas spirit.
While Silva’s story is fictional, much of it closely follows biographical accounts of Dickens, and most of her characters are based on real people. Dickens really did write a novel titled “Martin Chuzzlewit” that had disappointing sales compared to his other books. He did flirt with financial ruin. His relatives, particularly his father, who spent time in debtors’ prison early in Dickens’ life, really did hound him for money.
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Silva is a Boise resident who holds degrees from Boise State University and Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. She has lived in London three times and vividly evokes the sights, sounds and smells of the city in her story. Over her career she has sold projects to Paramount, Universal and other Hollywood studios, and a film adaptation of her short story, “The Big Burn,” won the 1 Potato Short Screenplay Competition at the 2017 Sun Valley Film Festival. Her accomplished screenwriting shines through in this, her debut novel — she conjures a distinctive voice to tell her tale, one not unlike the distinctive voice that Dickens utilizes in his stories.
Silva calls herself “a forever Dickens devotee” and notes that her book is, above all else, “a fan letter — a love letter — to ‘The Inimitable Boz’ himself.” “Mr. Dickens and His Carol” is funny, clever and touching, with a mysterious character or two and a surprise ending that is a perfect Dickensian fit.
Bob Kustra is president of Boise State University and host of Reader’s Corner, a weekly radio show on Boise State Public Radio. Reader’s Corner airs Fridays at 6 p.m. and repeats Sundays at 11 a.m. on KBSX 91.5 FM. Previous shows, including an interview with Silva, are online at http://boisestatepublicradio.org/programs/readers-corner. Or download our free app from Google Play or the App Store.