Book review: Marley — by Jon Clinch

(Atria Books)

When we meet Jacob Marley in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” and yes, this is the selfsame man in Jon Clinch’s delectable new novel, he is a haggard specter, weighted down with heavy chains. It is his desire to save Scrooge from a similar fate that summons the apparitions to visit Ebeneezer Scrooge. In Dickens’ tale, we see snippets of what Scrooge’s life could have been; in Clinch’s tale, we get the entire backstory, and discover how the miserable miser came to be. It is, indeed, a dark yet lively re-imagining. Marley and Scrooge meet as young men at Professor’s Drabb’s Academy for boys, and soon discover a shared penchant for the particular peculiarities of the import and export business; at that time, before it was outlawed in England in 1807, the slave trade comprised a large part of their shipping empire. In order for Scrooge to wed Belle, the establishment of Scrooge & Marley must divest themselves from this abhorrent business and thusly, matters run afoul. Marley’s confidence in obscuring the details is exaggerated and the shrewd Scrooge is on to his game. Clinch, author of the much-lauded Finn, has given readers an eye-opening glimpse into another one of American literature’s mysterious figures.

— Reviewed by Jenny Lyons of The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury.


9 Homages to Great Literature

Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys

Ahab’s Wife, by Sena Jeter Naslund

Circe, by Madeline Miller

Quichotte, by Salman Rushdie

The Secrets We Kept, by Lara Prescott

Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld

The Flight of Gemma Hardy, by Margot Livesey

Wicked, by Gregory Maguire

Longbourn, by Jo Baker

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