review

The Signalman – Charles Dickens

“There is danger overhanging, somewhere on the Line. Some dreadful calamity will happen.”

 

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Blurb: “When the narrator of Charles Dickens’ masterful ghost story The Signalman climbs down into lonely railway siding on a whim, he finds himself in ‘as solitary and dismal a place as ever I saw… it struck chill to me, as if I had left the natural world.’ His misgivings turn out to be justified, for the signalman who lives there has a secret, a ghostly visitor who has twice warned him of impending disaster, and now appears again, foretelling a coming catastrophe that neither man can predict or understand.”

Anyone who know me, will know how much I adore Charles Dickens. When I discovered this short story and that it was the last of his works to be written to completion, how could I resist?

In real life, Charles Dickens had a mistress named Ellen Ternan. One day the duo were on board a train when it derailed, leading to the death of ten people. Dickens was greatly affected by the events and experienced symptoms we would recognise in modern day as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He wrote The Signalman a year after the incident and then went on to write The Mystery Of Edwin Drood but died before its completion.

The Signalman is a ghost story about an unnamed narrator who goes down to the tracks one day to see the lonely man who works by the tunnel. Through their conversation, the signalman reveals the strange happenings at his outpost which he believes are a prelude to a fatal accident.

Dickens had a fantastic way of writing gothic and setting up scenes that can’t help but make you feel uncomfortable. It’s just so well thought out (even with the short length) and just a testament to the wonderfully talented writer I know Dickens to be.
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children's fiction · contemporary · review

The Last Of The Spirits – Chris Priestley

 

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Blurb: “On the bleak streets of London, Sam is freezing and hungry. When he is rudely refused help by Ebenezer Scrooge, Sam vows to kill the selfish man. But later, while Sam is huddled in a graveyard, a ghost warns him of the terrible fate that awaits if he chooses the path of murder. And so Sam begins  journey led by terrifying spirits through past, present and future. After which he must decide his own destiny.”

I found this book when I was browsing through the Christmas sales on Bloomsbury’s website. The second I saw this utterly gorgeous cover I was intrigued. When I discovered that is is a re-imagining of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, I had to get it.

Before I delve into the initial plot and my overall thoughts, I just want to point out something that really annoyed me about this book. From the blurb you can see that a boy called Sam is an important, central character to the book. However, on the cover you can see two children, and in the story Sam has a sister who, for some reason, is not mentioned on the blurb. It kind of threw me off a bit, I will admit.

So this story follows homeless orphans Sam and Lizzie who wander the streets of London looking for someone to give them a little bit of hope during this Christmas time. They fall into the path of the notorious Scrooge and when he rather impolitely refuses to help, Sam is overcome with a desire to kill this foul man. They seek refuge for the night in a graveyard where the spirit of a ghost – Scrooge’s old partner Marely – appears and warns Sam of what will happen if he continues down the dark path he is contemplating. Marely says that he will give Scrooge the chance to change and will send three ghosts (the ghosts of past, present, and future) to help him see the error of his ways. Through certain circumstances Sam and Lizzie try to catch the spirits in the act and Sam ends up seeing some of what the ghosts show Scrooge. The ghost of the future then turns on Sam and shows him what the future will be for him and his sister if he does kill Scrooge.

As you can see, it’s quite a dark, festive read but also very short (166 pages).

Sam and Lizzie are very different children. Lizzie, despite their situation, is quite accepting of the injustice they have, and continue to, receive, lucky that simply she is alive. On the other hand, Sam has grown to be a bitter young boy, believing that he deserves a lot more than what has been handed to him and is determined to change his life. It made for more of an interesting narrative with the focus being on him, but I did feel like Lizzie was a very swept-under-the-rug minor character despite being involved in quite a big portion of the story (And being part of the reason Sam inevitably changes).

I understood the hatred Sam possessed but it felt a bit too much at times for me and Lizzie just seeming to miss some of the important plot moments was disappointing. It would have been nice to see some of her thoughts and be more of a part of the moral journey her brother took rather than becoming essentially an after-thought.

One thing I love about adaptations of a novel that already exists is links to the original and there are quite a few such as the focus on the Cratchit family who still play that ever vital part in this book.

And of course, the overall moral of the story is still there.
Now I’m going to put on my over-sized hoodie, sit by the fire and read another book!

 

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review

Manga Classics: Great Expectations – Nokman Poon, Crystal S Chan and Stacy King

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Blurb: “Great Expectations has it all: romance, mystery, comedy, and unforgettable characters woven through a gripping rags-to-riches tale. Naive Pip, creepy Miss Haversham, beautifully cold Estella, terrifying Abel Magwitch, and the rest of Dicken’s fantastic cast are perfectly envisioned in this new adaptation in this 300-plus page volume featuring artwork by artist Nokman Poon. Manga Classics editions feature classic stories, faithfully adapted and illustrated in manga style, and available in both hardcover and softcover editions.”

*I was sent this book by the publisher but this in no way affects my review*

Without a doubt Great Expectations is one of my favourite books. I was introduced to this book (and Charles Dickens) in High School when we were studying Chapters 1 and 8 in my English class. I instantly fell in love and brought the book as soon as I could. There’s just something about the characters, story and writing that ha stayed with me over the years. So when Undon Entertainment sent me a manga edition of it to review, I was overjoyed.

If you want to read Great Expectations but the idea of tackling Charles Dickens’ wordiness makes you want to run away, then this is the edition for you: a lot of the story is condensed, leaving behind the important plot points to focus on.

The art is utterly beautiful, the design of the characters is so distinctive and just so elegant. Not to mention the scenery images are gorgeous.The only issue I have is that Pip is from a low class background and can’t read or write well, let alone speak at an “acceptable standard” but in this edition, he speaks like someone educated from the very start. I felt like this was out of character.

I’m happy that a manga classics series is allowing more people access to Dickens. And if you’re a manga fan, I highly recommend this!

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