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Mr. Timothy

A book by Louis Bayard

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. . . . who did NOT die!

  • Aug 5, 2008
Rating:
+3
The concept is so forehead-slappingly simple I was a bit skeptical going into this book: Tiny Tim (" . . . who did NOT die", and I hear Gonzo from the The Muppet Christmas Carol - Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition, for my money still the best adaptation) grows up! Doh, sure, that's too easy (hmm, why didn't I write that book first?), so I mentally subtracted a star from my rating of Mr. Timothy before turning the first page..

But the execution turned out to be more complex, both better and far different than what I expected based on the title and the concept. Dickens' London is there in all its now-familiar fog, filth, poverty, sprawl, and risk. Scrooge is still Scrooge, the new and improved model, of course, celebrating Christmas year-round and assisting charities at a penitential pace.

But Timothy (he addresses the "Tiny" part in the first sentence, and for the rest of the book that is off the table) is now a young man in his early 20's, his mother and father have both died, and his brothers and sisters are grown and on their own. Bayard does a masterful job of integrating the harsh actuarial and demographic statistics of mid-19th Century London into the very human story of the Cratchit family. The elder generation dies, young to us, of the physical ailments attendant to that time, place, and income level. Medical care is nonexistent or deadly, and even rising middle-class families suffer the consequences. The poor die young in the gutter; the middle-class have a bed and a roof for the event.

Even a wealthy benefactor like "Uncle N", as the Cratchit siblings refer to Scrooge, can only bring the Cratchit clan to that rising middle-class level where a roof is available, but economic or physical disaster is in the gutter just outside. So while one brother has a happy marriage and with his wife runs a photographic salon on a busy street, other brothers and sisters have faced hard times maintaining their hold on respectability (and pride--those gifts from Scrooge come at a price some can't or won't pay)--and and we meet Mr. Timothy boarding in a whore house as an English tutor to the madam.

Of course, Bayard also draws forward the pleasant associations from the original story. Timothy, despite all that has happened and will transpire throughout the book, remains trusting, innocent, and optimistic, even as his adult personality and difficult circumstances mold his way of thinking into a realism necessary for survival. The leg is healed, even though a limp remains. Bob Cratchit (met only through Tim's first-person thoughts and dreams, as he has already passed away before the book starts) remains the hopeful, hardworking, ever-cheerful clerk of the Dickens story.

Having set the stage with these common and anticipated props, Bayard takes the story in a direction I had not anticipated--Timothy encounters two young girls (about 10 years old, he thinks) dead in the streets, with a distinct and horrifying marking on their bodies; when he encounters a third with the same marking but very much alive, he dedicates himself to finding, saving, hiding, and finally rescuing her from the same fate. The events are at times truly horrific, but Bayard keeps this above the level of a standard period-piece London thriller by always keeping Timothy in character.

In the end, Bayard's story isn't about Scrooge, or Bob, or Christmas, or miracles, even though these things all play a part. The story is about Tim Cratchit growing up and gorwing older, and Bayard gets the feeling exactly right.

Nice job.

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More Mr. Timothy reviews
Quick Tip by . March 22, 2011
A post-Dickensian classic/adventure/thriller that owes much to Charles Dickens' creation of the well-known character, Timothy Cratchitt, but is certainly not derivative in any way. Thoroughly enjoyable!
review by . March 22, 2011
Timothy Cratchitt, now fully grown with his crippling childhood infirmity reduced to a limp and a chronic ache in bad weather, is sadly mindful of his financial dependence on his uncle. Somewhat disappointed in himself for that, he lives in Mrs. Sharpe's brothel, earning his room and board by teaching the madam of the house how to read. He and his dear friend, Captain Gully, scrape together spending money by trolling the Thames for lost treasures and even by recovering the corpses of the odd …
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Todd Stockslager ()
Ranked #38
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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Wiki

Tiny Tim is back! No, not the squeaky-voiced troubadour who tip-toed through tulips in the 1960s, but the original--Timothy Cratchit, the crutch-wielding tyke from Charles Dickens'sA Christmas Carol. Only now he's a "mostly able-bodied" 23 years old, resides in a London whorehouse in exchange for tutoring the madam, struggles to wean himself from financial dependence on his ancient "Uncle" Ebenezer Scrooge, and, as we learn in Louis Bayard's darkly enchanting historical thriller,Mr. Timothy, is haunted by the spirit of his late father--a man whose optimism and strength the son feels himself incapable of imitating.

When we first encounter Timothy, during the Christmas season of 1860, he's vexed by the discovery of two dead 10-year-old girls, each branded with the letter "G"--one found in an alley, the other fished from the Thames River by Cratchit and a voluble old salt who makes his money by finding (and then robbing, of course) errant corpses. Timothy's concern leads him to protect a third possessively marked waif, the frightened and suspicious Philomela--who, he soon realizes, is being sought by a knife-loving former Scotland Yard inspector and a moneyed, malevolent voluptuary. When, despite precautions, Philomela is kidnapped by her pursuers, Cratchit--assisted by a shrewd warbling urchin known as Colin the Melodious--resolves to fulfill his "great calling" in life by mounting a rescue. However, this mission will force the habitually uncourageous Timothy to not only defend...

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Details

ISBN-10: 0060534214
ISBN-13: 978-0060534219
Author: Louis Bayard
Publisher: HarperCollins

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