The boy had never spoken to the old man before, nor scarcely noticed him. The old man, had he been asked, would have sworn under oath, hand on the Bible, that he had likewise never seen the boy.
But the truth was, over the last few years, they had passed within inches of each other a hundred times. The old man had even brushed the boy aside more than once as he beetled his way to his office. To the old man, the boy was just another tiresome obstacle to be avoided. To the boy, the old man, along with all the other hard-faced strangers like him, was yet another reason to hate the world.
Published by Bloomsbury in November 2014
180 pages in hardback
Summary adapted from Chris Priestley’s own site
“The Last of the Spirits is the last in my trilogy of metafictions - books that have been inspired by, and run parallel to, stories that had a big impact on me when I first encountered them.
It began with Mister Creecher, linked to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, then The Dead Men Stood Together, inspired by Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and now there is this book - a story that takes a sideways step out of the world and characters of Dickens 'A Christmas Carol.”
This is the best retelling of ‘A Christmas Carol’ I have encountered – and I am a great fan of the story in its many forms.
This version reads if Chris Priestley were present at the same time – but filming from a different angle. He’s taken away the worst of the Victorian clutter, and given us a sparer, stronger tale. There’s all of Dickens’ anger and compassion shown through a modern lens –on two unexpected characters.
You know the basic story too well for there to be spoilers – but this does have an alternative take. It is not a contemporary re-imagining, it is firmly set in the19th Century – but it does still resonate with today’s world. It’s rather easier to read than the original – but there still is that recognisable Dickensian ‘look’.
A pleasing and rather humble extra to this relatively short book are two ‘bonus features’ about Dickens and other versions of the story. The production values throughout are also high quality. The only thing that could improve it for me would be more illustrations inside, whether by Zdenko Basic who did the eerily attractive cover art, or Chris Priestley himself.
Highly recommended for any confident reader wanting a ghostly Christmas story with humanity at it heart.