Book Review: Marley by Jon Clinch


Growing up, I was a massive fan of The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I have not only read the book multiple times, often around Christmas, but I’ve seen at least a dozen of the many adaptations of the book (some far better than others). So when I stumbled upon this book, which purported to tell the story from Jacob Marley’s perspective, Scrooge’s partner who is the ghost who visits him first in the original classic, I knew I had to read it.

Unfortunately, I went into this expecting a light fun book, but this book is so…horrible.

Release: Oct. 2019

Synopsis: A reimagining of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, telling the story of Jacob Marley and Ebeneezer Scrooge, from their youth to Marley’s death, showing the story in all new ways.

Spoiler Review:

Where do I start with this horrible excuse for a retelling? When it comes to retellings, authors generally go two routes: stay true to the source material while adding more depth to the story, or use the original as inspiration and then promptly ignore it for the majority of the book. This book, unfortunately, felt like the latter. Major things were ignored from the original text, changing not only the characters but entire point of Dicken’s story to begin with. Clinch throws in things from the slave trade and prostitutes. It was all very strange and modern-feeling, not examining issues from the views of the era. The only redeeming quality in this book is the language, as the descriptions are often beautiful and visual.

Let me talk briefly about the big issues I noticed were changed, like Scrooge’s sister dying way later in this book. In the original, her death was one of the main prompts for him to become a miser and pull back from the world. It is demonstrated he was not always a horrible person, but became so because of the harshness of the world. However, in this book he is presented as a horrible person just in general his entire life. It makes no sense why Belle would fall in love with him in the first place in this rendition.

Marley and Scrooge’s business is entirely changed as well. In the original, they were money lenders. This was a massive part of the classic, but in this book their money is achieved through greed, the slave trade, and underhanded dealings. While both might make for interesting conflict, it changes the story to be entire unrecognizable.

But the worst additive by far is the romance between Scrooge’s sister Fan and Marley. Like Marley literally spurns her so she marries someone else, and then a few years later kills her husband. They then engage in an affair…yes, I’m not even joking. Fan, the ideal kind-hearted good thing in Scrooge’s early life has an affair when she has a small son right after her husband dies. It makes no sense!

Now, outside my issues with it as a retelling, it just wasn’t that interesting of book. The descriptions were flowery and beautiful, but the plot was slow and most of the characters were one-dimensional and dull. Even if this book had no association with Dickens’s classic, I still would have not liked it.

I am aware that I’m being rather harsh on this book. I know, but I guess I am generally harsher on retellings because of their associations with the original.

Have you read this book or heard of it? Does it look interesting to you? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventures,

Madame Writer

9 thoughts on “Book Review: Marley by Jon Clinch

    1. Fan did die. In the second stave with the first of three spirits, the Ghost says “She died a woman…and had, as I think, children.” Scrooge replies, “One child.” Perhaps the movie did add the details of when exactly she died. I don’t remember any of the specific movies well, but the reason I assumed she died young is because during that time a woman would rarely have one child, which indicates she must have died before having more children. While I suppose Clinch could simply have interpreted it differently because Fan’s husband died in his version (and we never learn about the father in the original book), but I still stand by my thoughts about this book in general. Besides, that’s such a small thing I mentioned with my issues with this book. But I appreciate you clearing that up.


  1. I don’t think you’re being too harsh. It’s unfortunately ‘a thing’ for too many modernists to crap their present time values and sensibilities all over the works of their predecessors (and betters!) Sadly, most believe their efforts prove how clever they are.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. God, such wasted potential. My community used to put on a show every holiday season called “Marley’s Christmas Carol” that took the premise further: not only told the story from his point of view but tied his fate with Scrooge’s, if one could be saved then the other had a slim chance for salvation. Much better than this book.

    Liked by 1 person

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