Who exactly was Jacob Marley? How did his life impact that of Ebenezer Scrooge? The two young men meet at Professor Drabb’s Academy for Boys where Jacob starts their friendship by conning young Ebenezer. They later start a business together with Jacob Marley as the figurehead who works with people to put together the business plan and Ebenezer Scrooge as the man who is great with the numbers. While Marley seems to drift into a world of sin and hedonism, Ebenezer joins his church’s choir and finds love with his sister fan’s friend, Belle. As he tries to accumulate the wealth needed to marry her, will he be able to cut himself free of Marley’s web of deceit?
I thought Marley was an interesting Victorian novel. It gave background to one of my favorite Dickens stories, A Christmas Carol. Marley is a figure in that story, but so much is unknown. This novel fleshed out a lot of the detail. Although it is called Marley, it is really the story of both men as it either centers on Scrooge or Marley. I thought it was interesting that is has their fortune being made through the slave trade. Scrooge wants to get out of it, but Marley uses his double crossing to cheat Scrooge and continue to make money off of it. Marley was truly a despicable character, even his true love for Fan was tainted. It made me sad for Scrooge that he wanted to have a good life, and he got caught up in Marley’s tainted life and web. I thought it was also interesting that Scrooge was written such that he might be autistic with his great head for numbers, but inability to connect with people. I also loved that the author referenced other Dicken’s tales by having characters and many of Marley’s aliases use names from other books like Steerforth and Macawber from David Copperfield.
Matthew Lloyd Davies was a great narrator. I liked his accent and his narration style. There was a small cast of characters in this book with it mostly centering on Scrooge, Marley, Scrooge’s sister Fan, Fan’s friend Belle, and Mother Scrooge. I felt like I got to really know them as the novel went forward, although Marley still remained mysterious to me. Where was his family and what was his background before he came to the school? What started him on his path of deceit?
Overall, Marley was an interesting look into the dark Victorian history that formed the miserly Scrooge’s character. I came out caring more for Scrooge and resenting Marley more.