Carol’s Christmas | Book review

Carol’s Christmas | Book review

By Conor O’Neill

It’s official; from 01 December we’re all allowed to talk about Christmas. After a week of never-ending Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays and I-don’t-wanna-open-my-inbox-again-til-2018 days, we’re free to be as jolly and merry as we choose. If you think my attitude to this festive season is somewhat tarnished, you’ve yet to meet Carol Marley. Carol makes my inner Grinch look like something from CBeebies.

Carol, widow of Micky, and her threat-on legs Bob Hatchett have an un-named area of Belfast shaking with fear, as she lends coin at twice the interest rate, while Hatchett kicks groin like we say ‘how ye doing mate?’. Based on Dickens’ Christmas Carol this play/book does have a moral compass and while writer Stephen G Large’s talents do tend to lean toward the darker side, in the final pages, he does prove he has a heart in there somewhere.

It’s not only Carol and Hatchett that get the laughs but a tightly woven web of other characters that gives the reader a sense of community: the Karwashians, headed by mum Krissy and her somewhat prolific fallopian tubes, her five kids Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, Kylie and Kendall, along with Wee Tim, nephew Rodney and his wife Emma, Bap McIlroy, Carol’s sister Fran, Big Sylvia, a charity worker, Tucker, burglars, busy bodies one, two and three, a hooded teen with criminal tendencies, guests from the other side of this realm and NI’s favourite tele host, Julian Simmons as narrator all feature.

If the above all seems to bit too colloquial then the ghosts bring a bit of Hollywood glamour to the pages. Beetlejuice himself adds a bit of gothic flavour as The Ghost of Christmas Past, Patrick Swayze’s here for the ladies as The Ghost of Christmas Present and a muted Bruce Willis points his way as The Ghost of Christmas Future.

The one-liners are in abundance. Jimmy Savile’s ghosts make an appearance, Carol: “You’ve some amount of chains, Jimmy. Are they for your sins?” Beetlejuice jumps in: “No, they’re so the kids can hear him coming!” Swayze ushers Carol: “Come forth.” her reply “Get on your back big lawd and I’ll come first, second, third and fourth!” Not suitable for any kids’ primary nativity remake anytime soon.

And what travel through time would be complete without a few tunes? Reworded versions of The Muppets Christmas Carol, Harry Belafonte’s Day-O (The Banana Boat Song), Bill Medley’s The Time of My Life, Sinatra’s My Way, Harry Chapin’s Cat’s in the Cradle and the show-stopping ending and my personal favourite, a DLA remix of The Pogues Fairy Tale of New York are all guaranteed to get you in the spirit and humming along as you read. If there’s one chink in the plot’s armour it is Romanian born Krissy Karwashian’s perfect broad-Belfast accent. But as we’re dealing with celebrity ghosts, glue-sniffers, leg-breakers and mulled Buckfast, that little detail doesn’t spoil the fun.

This book started off as a play in 2016, unfortunately, Carol’s Christmas won’t be making the stage this year, but if you’re after a pure Norn Irish stocking filler, Large’s funny, moving and wickedly varicose and hairy Chrimbo charmer is the perfect prezzie for your nearest and dearest.

Carol’s Christmas is available from amazon.co.uk now.

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