A pastiche novel dramatizing the life of the harried clerk from Charles Dickens’ beloved 1843 novella.
Distler’s debut is a lean, surprisingly muscular reimagining of Dickens’ work from the narrative focal point of Bob Cratchit, the clerk in the firm of Scrooge & Marley who defended Ebenezer Scrooge’s outrageous behavior. The author fills in a brief back story, showing Cratchit as hailing from Bristol, England, and seeking his fortune in London. He eventually clerks for Scrooge and Jacob Marley for 15 shillings a week as he begins a family and watches it grow larger and happier. That joy is starkly countered by the atmosphere in the office, where he must deal with his miserly, inhuman masters, both of whom Distler subtly and intelligently brings to life—Scrooge as the colder and more implacably intellectual of the two (only warming for an instant when remembering his late sister) and Marley as the louder, more volatile one. The latter is prone to rages that are intriguingly prompted, in part, by his awareness of his wandering attention and focus. During one of these tirades, he actually strikes Cratchit—and later shortly but earnestly apologizes; Scrooge offers momentary sympathy but then orders him back to work. (Cratchit’s reflexive “Your servant, Mr. Scrooge” is met throughout the book with growled variations on “Yes, yes, you are, and best you don’t forget it!”) Distler indulges in a less-than-successful supernatural plotline that parallels the goings-on in A Christmas Carol. However, her evocation of Victorian London is superb, and her portrayals of Scrooge and Marley simultaneously humanize them and underscore their bitter savagery. Likewise, the story’s most pleasing innovation is in how it adds nuance to Dickens’ fairly one-dimensional version of Cratchit. Distler wonderfully details the clerk’s work tedium, his home life, and even the mundane details of a filthy, bustling London in this intriguing companion to an immortal classic.
A well-drawn exploration of
the untold stories of A Christmas Carol.