In a bid for Christmas equality, Posy Simmonds has now give us two versions of Scrooge as a woman, most recently in her graphic novel Cassandra Darke, which casts Dickens’ miser as a misanthropic art dealer.
“Women really aren’t allowed to be total rotters,” she told the Guardian. “There certainly aren’t many like Scrooge, who are permitted to be self-obsessed and mean and not sorry for themselves – who are comfortable in their aloofness from life in the way that he is.”
Mrs Scrooge (first published in the Guardian) acts as a sort of dry run for Cassandra Darke, at least visually. It is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol remade for the Credit Crunch era, which sounds like an awful prospect, but the accompanying poem by Carol Ann Duffy (who also wrote a brilliant new version of The Night Before Christmas), is sublimely witty, and not at all heavy handed.
Duffy imagines that after Scrooge has his epiphany in A Christmas Carol he finds a soul mate in Mrs Scrooge. But sadly their union is short lived, Scrooge is ‘doornail dead’ and his widow now lives alone, with her distant memories of good Ebenezer.
‘She remembered her first Christmas with Scrooge, the single stripey sweet he’d given her that year, and every year.’
The new setting is more than a chance to indulge in some festive satire, it offers an inspired backdrop to bring out the story’s message. Mrs Scrooge, it turns out, is something of an eco warrior, engaged in a protest against the terrible conditions suffered by the turkeys at Marley’s Supermarket (Biggest Bargain Birds!)
Her green credentials mean that even during the coldest winter on record her little flat is heated by just a small log fire and a hot water bottle. Like her husband she has become a miser, but in this new context miserliness is an entirely virtuous way of life.
As the ghosts whisk Mrs Scrooge off to Christmases past, present and those yet to come, she is filled not with regret, but reminded of how much she loves life and her family. Her emerging joie de vivre is entirely infectious. Even when shown her own death she has to restrain herself from dancing with the deathly ghost at the wake.
Posy Simmonds’ celebrations are like the best parties you’ve never been to; cross generational shindigs where everyone laughs, dances and gets sloshed on Bucks Fizz. And despite the modern dress she still manages to conjure up an authentically Dickensian feeling.
Mrs Scrooge is published by Picador and Cassandra Darke by Jonathan Cape