A Christmas Carol, is, of course THE Christmas ghost story. I had not read the original before and was pleased to find that it is fabulous. Readers who find Victorian novelists in general, and Dickens in particular, to be cumbersome and intimidating, aren't thinking of the opening of A Christmas Carol:
Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. . . .
Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade.Haven't you wondered what is dead about a door nail?
Dickens includes delectable (and unintimidating) descriptions of the produce and sweets. The action moves at a good clip. And while some readers might find it manipulative, I find it an indicator of good writing that tiny Tim's death made me cry because of the the way it changed his father's gait; even though I knew that Scrooge would reform and Tim would not die in the actual, rather than potential, future.
If you've read A Christmas Carol recently, I'd love to discuss it with you, and it you haven't, you really should (although if I were you I'd wait another year because there is something special about reading it at the right time of the year). Let me know.
As for the other ghost story: it was Jennifer Crusie's Maybe This Time, and it stunned me. Crusie writes some of my favorite romantic comedies (I love lit professor Rohan Maitzen's explanation of why she enjoyed some of Crusie's novels despite not being a "romance reader"). All of them include quirky characters, who are rarely conventionally beautiful, living in Ohio. Some of the more recent ones include some mystery or crime investigation, which is always secondary to the relationships. None of the others have included ghosts.
Maybe This Time included hints of ghosts from the beginning, but I kept waiting for the big reveal. As the action proceeded I became increasingly afraid that Crusie would totally Scoobie Do it: we'd suddenly realize it was just projectors, mirrors and an overuse of salvia, but equally worried with the alternative: that the ghosts in the story are really ghosts. About ten pages from the end (despite the ghosts, it is a fun, fast read), I looked up and told The Mister, "There are ghosts in my book." I couldn't quite believe it. The Mister guessed I had to be talking about A Christmas Carol because the library romantic comedy I was holding in my hand clearly didn't have ghosts. But it did.
As I look into it, I learn that Maybe This Time is based on The Turn of the Screw but, as I have never read any Henry James, I was completely unaware. MTT would probably be a fun read for the person who is a fan of Henry James the way I am a fan of Jane Austen: enjoying both the original and the sometimes silly derivatives.
Books, kids, flowers, recipes and vinegar all to come soon. Stay tuned to Sparkling Squirrel!