To take a well-known story and put our own spin on it is challenging. Because the story would be close to the heart of so many people, that the magic in the retelling might not feel as powerful or surreal as the original itself.
The Last of the Spirits follows two children Sam and Lizzie Hunter, street urchins who follow a rich man and plead with him to be merciful and give them some money on Christmas Eve. The spiteful miser turns out to be none other than Scrooge himself. Sam, the elder brother hovers around Scrooge’s door and overhears things, like Fred’s talk with his uncle Scrooge and the two men imitating Scrooge and his spiteful retorts when they went to his office requesting for donations. The siblings sleep in a graveyard that night, where the Ghost of Marley rises from his grave. After talking to the ghost, Sam pulls Lizzie to Scrooge’s home and they inadvertently become part of the journey with Scrooge, to the past, the future and the present. It’s their lives that are shown to us in the retelling.
If the original tale portrayed the change of Ebenezer Scrooge, this retelling shows not only a glimpse of that, but the change of Sam as well. It goes on the same lines as the original, retaining that curiosity and excitement between the journeys. It shows the repercussions of the miserliness of Marley and Scrooge, but also the soft side of Marley. It is a tale with brotherly love, ill-made decisions and the sadness of a heart hardened at an early age. It is a tale of second chances and a willingness to change. It takes those small details, like Want and Ignorance and puts a new spin on it while keeping the magic of the original intact. It goes past the Christmas Day change of Scrooge and shows the benevolence of the changed Scrooge years after. The ending to the threads that are Sam and Lizzie Hunter is also one that is moving.
There have been many “takes” on the Charles Dickens’s evergreen classic A Christmas Carol, but Chris Priestley’s The Last of the Spirits perhaps stands wonderfully close to the original. And yes, like the original, this would be one book that I will read over and over and over again.
Title: The Last of the Spirits
Author: Chris Priestley
Price: INR 399
(30th November 2014)