Review: The Last of the Spirits, by Chris Priestley

It’s the first of December! And WordPress has added snowflakes to our blog. How festive!
I am going to TRY to write something each day this month as an advent-type experiment. I can’t guarantee success but I will try my hardest. To kick off, below is a review I wrote for We Love This Book about Chris Priestley’s new novel The Last of the Spirits. I was drawn to reviewing things because it is based on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and I LOVE Christmas ghost stories. In fact, today I went to the British Library to visit the Gothic exhibition there, and will be writing a review of that soon. But as a little taster… suffice it to say it was amazing.
The Last of the Spirits is a great book for Christmas, for young or old.  Enjoy!
Image courtesy of media.bloomsbury,com
In A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens introduces us to two allegorical twins – Ignorance and Want – in order to portray the brutal reality of childhood poverty in London. In The Last of the Spirits Chris Priestly gives these children names – Sam and Lizzie – and delves deeper into their miserable experience of life on the streets of the capital in Victorian times.
Elder brother Sam is disillusioned and angry with the injustice of their existence, while younger sister Lizzie is literally wasting away from starvation and cold. An unpleasant chance encounter with Ebenezer Scrooge one freezing winter night unleashes Sam’s pent-up rage and he silently vows to murder Scrooge and steal his riches. However, as he and Lizzie take shelter in the graveyard opposite Scrooge’s house, a ghost appears to warn him against his violent plan, quickly followed by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Sam witnesses some frightening scenes but will these be enough to deter him from seeking revenge on Ebenezer Scrooge?
Chris Priestley captures the decaying, diseased atmosphere of Dickensian London brilliantly and creates a sympathetic antihero in Sam. By diverting the narrative focus of the original tale from Scrooge onto the children, he effectively conveys the horrendous conditions many children faced alone in Victorian times, arguably more effectively than in the original tale.
The story ends with the rhetorical question: “For what would Christmas be without a ghost story?” Priestley’s novel never loses sight of the genre in which it is written, and The Last of the Spirits is a perfect book to curl up with on these dark winter nights.
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