Marly's Ghost by David Levithan (review copy) - A remix of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with a Valentine’s twist
When Ben’s girlfriend, Marly, dies, he feels his life is over and the prospect of Valentine’s day without her fills him with bitterness. But then Marly arrives – or at least, her ghost does – along with three other spirits. Now Ben must take a journey through Valentines past, present and future – and what he learns will change him forever. From Goodreads
Being the huge fan David Levithan that I am, when I heard that Marly's Ghost was being released in the UK, I had to read it! Sadly, this wasn't really my cup of tea.
Ben is still grieving four months after the death of his girlfriend, Marly. His grief has turned him bitter and resentful; he no longer hangs out with his friends, he snaps at others, and has given up on love. Then on the night before Valentine's Day, Ben is visited by Marly's ghost. His behaviour and loss of faith in love are causing her to struggle in her afterlife, so she has arranged for him to be visited by three spirits; the Spirit of Love Past, the Spirit of Love Present, and the Spirit of Love Future. Will these spirits be able to teach Ben the error of his ways before it's too late?
Despite the Valentine's Day holiday, theme of love and the age of the characters, Marly's Ghost stays pretty true to the original story of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, which it is a remix of. I've not read the original story, but I've seen various movie adaptations, so I know the story pretty well, and I was surprised at how true to the original it was. In some ways, I think it was too true.
Marly's Ghost is set in contemporary times, yet the dialogue harks back to language of Dickens' time - if not exactly, then pretty close. I found this to be really disrupting, and would jolt me out of the story, definitely a style I'm not a fan of. People just don't talk like that these days, and it felt really false to me. Levithan mentioned in his Author Note that he wrote the story with a copy of the original, remixing it line by line, page by page for the first draft, and then changing things during the edit, so the language is understandable in that regard, but it just really didn't work for me.
Saying that, all of the characters we know from the original story make there appearance in one way or another, if not as actual characters - like Fred, who is Ben's best mate - then as merged essences to form new characters - like Tiny and Tim, a young gay couple who stand in for the whole Cratchit family, but also the two men who are collecting for charity. Like this, all the important characters to the original story are there in spirit (excuse the pun) with words or actions of other or merged characters, if not with their own place in this story.
This story wasn't for me, sadly, but if you enjoy The Christmas Carol, you may appreciate this new take on the story with love and life at it's heart, rather than Christmas spirit.
Thank you to Electric Monkey for the review copy.
Published: 8th January 2015
Publisher: Electric Monkey
David Levithan's Website