Book Review: Mr Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

Mr Dickens and His CarolAbout the Book

Charles Dickens should be looking forward to Christmas.

But when his latest book, Martin Chuzzlewit, is a flop, his publishers give him an ultimatum. Either he writes a Christmas book in a month or they will call in his debts and he could lose everything. Dickens has no choice but to grudgingly accept…


Format: eBook (244 pp.), Hardcover (320 pp.) Publisher: Allison & Busby
Published: 31st October 2017                               Genre: Historical Fiction

Purchase Links* ǀ ǀ Barnes & Noble
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

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My Review

For you, does Christmas not really start until you’ve read the words, ‘Marley was dead, to begin with’? Is for you the perfect wet, overcast Christmas afternoon spent watching your favourite adaptation of the ultimate feel good Christmas story (whether that’s starring Alastair Sim, Albert Finney, my own personal favourite Patrick Stewart …or even The Muppets)? Have you ever found yourself taking a second glance at a door knocker on a murky night because you fancy it has changed shape? Do the words, ‘I see a vacant seat…in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner’ reduce you to a helpless blubbering wreck? If you can answer yes to any of those questions, then Samantha Silva’s Mr Dickens and His Carol is the book for you. It’s a full-on love letter to one of Charles Dickens’ most famous and best-loved books: A Christmas Carol.

It’s 1843 and Charles Dickens finds himself in the peculiar situation of no longer experiencing the literary success to which he has been accustomed.   Furthermore, he’s in danger of being overshadowed in the literary firmament by authors such as Thackeray. On top of all that, he’s weighed down by the financial burden of supporting his growing family, well-appointed house, impecunious family members and all manner of social causes. What’s more, Christmas is approaching when his purse seems to have ever increasing demands upon it.

When his publishers insist that he write a Christmas book (and do it the space of a few weeks), Dickens is initially appalled at the idea that he should write in response to public demand. “Well! From now on I should simply ask my public what it is they’d like to read.” When Dickens does eventually resign himself to the commission, he finds himself suffering an extreme case of writer’s block. I’m sure many authors will empathise with his efforts to overcome it.

When morning rounded the bend for noon, and the tempest outside blustered on, Dickens had a clipped conversation with The Master’s Cat (who offered no useful ideas at all), took three stretching breaks, a light lunch and a cold bath to clear his head. By late afternoon he had one half-written paragraph that was illegible for all the scratching-out, and barely good enough for the bin.’

A chance encounter during one of Dickens’ customary night-time perambulations through London finally brings inspiration. However, when the muse finally strikes will it be the A Christmas Carol we are familiar with or will Dickens first need to go on his own journey into his past, present and future?

The author really captures the atmosphere of Dickens in the descriptions of London. ‘The clusters of tenements and rows of lodging-houses looked cramped and unhappy, with dwarf doors and squeezed windows, broken shutters, if shutters at all, and more paper and rags than glass in them. There was a barber in one front parlour, a herring vendor in another, a cobbler visible through an opening out back.  A few rickety balconies leant hard on thin wood columns, like crutches, and threatened to drop at any moment.’

I loved spotting the passing references to A Christmas Carol dotted throughout the book – names, phrases or snippets of dialogue. I laughed out loud when the author made Dickens utter the phrase ‘Humbugs? Bah!’ and again when Dickens was allowed to indulge in the ultimate literary revenge towards a hapless autograph hunter.

The Dickens who emerges in this book is a family man, a loving if at times somewhat neglectful husband, a supporter of social causes, loyal friend and generous host. Clearly, there were other sides to his character. For instance, he would later very publicly separate from Catherine, his wife of twenty-two years, after becoming enamoured with a young actress. If you would like to explore this further, consider my ‘try something similar’ recommendation below which, on this occasion, is not very similar at all.

However, if you love A Christmas Carol or even (whisper) if you don’t but know someone who does, then Mr Dickens and His Carol would make the perfect Christmas gift.   Being in the former category, I absolutely loved it and I couldn’t imagine anything nicer than unwrapping the book with its gorgeous cover on Christmas morning.

I received an advance reader copy courtesy of publishers Allison & Busby in return for an honest and unbiased review.

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In three words: Charming, funny, uplifting

Try something similar…Catherine Dickens: Outside the Magic Circle by Heera Datta (click here for my review)

Samantha SilvaAbout the Author

Samantha Silva is a writer and screenwriter based in Idaho. Mr Dickens and His Carol is her debut novel. Over her career she’s sold projects to Paramount, Universal, New Line Cinema, and TNT. A film adaptation of her short story, The Big Burn, won the 1 Potato Short Screenplay Competition at the 2017 Sun Valley Film Festival. Silva will direct, her first time at the helm. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, she’s lived in London, Bologna, and Rome, is an avid Italophile and a forever Dickens devotee

Connect with Samantha

Website ǀ Goodreads





Blog Tour: 10 Things I Loved About Woman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole

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I’m thrilled to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for Woman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole and to share with you my thoughts about this fantastic book. Reading this over the past couple of days, I feel as if I’ve been transported back to the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Do check out the posts of the fabulous bloggers hosting the other stops on the tour.  If you’re in the US, via the tour page, you can enter the giveaway to win a SIGNED copy of Woman Enters Left (closes 6th October).

WomanEntersLeftAbout the Book

1950s movie star Louise Wilde is caught between an unfulfilling acting career and a shaky marriage when she receives an out-of-the-blue phone call: she has inherited the estate of Florence “Florrie” Daniels, a Hollywood screenwriter she barely recalls meeting. Among Florrie’s possessions are several unproduced screenplays, personal journals, and – inexplicably – old photographs of Louise’s mother, Ethel. On an impulse, Louise leaves a film shoot in Las Vegas and sets off for her father’s house on the East Coast, hoping for answers about the curious inheritance and, perhaps, about her own troubled marriage.

Nearly thirty years earlier, Florrie takes off on an adventure of her own, driving her Model T westward from New Jersey in pursuit of broader horizons. She has the promise of a Hollywood job and, in the passenger seat, Ethel, her best friend since childhood. Florrie will do anything for Ethel, who is desperate to reach Nevada in time to reconcile with her husband and reunite with her daughter. Ethel fears the loss of her marriage; Florrie, with long-held secrets confided only in her journal, fears its survival.

In parallel tales, the three women – Louise, Florrie, Ethel – discover that not all journeys follow a map. As they rediscover their carefree selves on the road, they learn that sometimes the paths we follow are shaped more by our traveling companions than by our destinations.

Format: Paperback, ebook (352 pp.)     Publisher: Ballantine Books
Published: 8th August 2017                     Genre: Historical Fiction

Purchase Links* ǀ ǀ Barnes & Noble ǀ iTunes ǀ Indiebound ǀ Kobo
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find Woman Enters Left on Goodreads

10 Things I Loved About Woman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole

  1. It’s built around three strong female characters and presents a wonderful and moving picture of female love and friendship.
  2. Its evocation of the glamorous and not so glamorous aspects of the Golden Ages of Hollywood – the studios, the actors, the screenwriters, the casting couch…
  3. The brilliantly observed period detail in each timeline. The clothes, the make-up, the cocktails, the food – creamed chipped beef on toast, slumgullion stew, shrimp wiggle, croquettes.
  4. The carefully-constructed narrative structure, with the story moving back and forth between the two timelines: the 1926 narrative told through Ethel’s and Florrie’s journals, each in their distinctive style, interspersed with excerpts from Florrie’s unpublished screenplay; the 1952 narrative told from Louise’s point of view, with other documents used to fill in the period between 1926 and 1952.
  5. The fascinating road trip along Route 66 with its campsites, dude ranches, motels and, dare I say it, cinematic scenery.
  6. The multi-layered narrative that, as well as the central story of the three women, covers issues as diverse as the blacklisting of screenwriters/actors in the 1950s and the activities of The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), workplace safety and sexual freedom (or lack of it), the Korean war and post-combat stress.
  7. Its themes: of unintended consequences and the guilt that can arise from these; missed opportunities in life, career and love; the need to seize second chances.
  8. The sparkling dialogue, particularly between Louise and Arnie, that’s straight out of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in, say, Woman of the Year
  9. The frequent allusions to life as a film script from the title itself, Woman Enters Left to the way the characters see themselves and interpret their experiences: ‘She can picture it now, a shot on the screen in Technicolor. The red car, the brown desert, the dark-haired actress running away from it all with her wicker suitcase.’  ‘But what does the scene call for? What would the script say?’
  10. The brilliant ending – pure Hollywood!

Not too difficult to guess that I adored this book. It has it all: romance, glamour, authentic period detail and a compelling narrative. If someone doesn’t snap up the film rights, they’re missing a trick.

Highly recommended…and all Jessica’s previous books just got added to my TBR.

I received an advance reader copy courtesy of HF Virtual Book Tours in return for an honest review.

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In three words: Stylish, dramatic, compelling

Watch something similar… A Star is Born [1954], Hail, Caesar! [2016], Trumbo [2015]

JessicaBrockmoleAbout the Author

Jessica Brockmole is the author of At the Edge of Summer, the internationally bestselling Letters from Skye, which was named one of the best books of 2013 by Publishers Weekly, and Something Worth Landing For, a novella featured in Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War. She lives in northern Indiana with her husband, two children, and far too many books.

Connect with Jessica

Website ǀ Facebook ǀ Twitter ǀ Goodreads ǀ Instagram

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