Book Reviews | December 2019 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Jacob Marley Returns

Courtesy of Atria Books

Our holiday edition roundup of books about books focused exclusively on splashy, illustrated non-fiction, which meant we left off at least one new novel worthy of every bibliophile’s attention. Marley by Jon Clinch is on-theme for the season too, offering the backstory of Jacob Marley, whose death inaugurates Charles Dickens’ holiday classic, A Christmas Carol. In Clinch’s prequel of sorts, Marley is very much alive, a forger and a scoundrel who begins a lifelong business partnership with Ebenezer Scrooge after they meet at Professor Drabb’s Academy for Boys. As that name suggests, theirs is a dark, unsavory world that Clinch uses to his advantage to snare his reader in a chilling, yet compelling atmosphere. His pacing is superb, giving this novel a depth beyond its 283 pages. And it’s not all gloom: love attempts to shine a light on both men, but is it enough?

Clinch, also the author of Finn (2007), is no stranger to fiction that takes a recognizable literary character in a totally new direction. It’s a bold idea, expertly executed, and in the case of Marley, it will prompt you cut old Scrooge some slack.