About the Author
Charles Dickens was a famed British novelist, who began his career as a freelance reporter. One of his first works, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, sparked his fame and he soon began touring the US and England performing readings of his works. Today, Dickens is known as one of the most prolific Victorian authors and was a staunch advocate for the poor and social reform. Some of his most famous works include Oliver Twist (1839), A Christmas Carol (1843), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), and Great Expectations (1861).
Ángel Domínguez was born in the Basque Country in 1953. He is an award-winning illustrator of more than twenty books and is known throughout Spain. His lavish work has already been compared to some of the greatest illustrators of the past century, including one of his inspirations, Arthur Rackham. Ángel’s art has graced postage stamps, magazine illustrations, stationary, postcards, earthenware, and more. He has illustrated multiple Racehorse for Young Readers books including The Jungle Book (2016), The Twelve Days of Christmas (2017), and Beauty and the Beast (2017) The art that he created for The Jungle Book won the CCEI Award in Spain for best illustrated book. Also notable among his work is “The King’s Gift,” which he illustrated specifically for Queen Rania of Jordan in 2000. He lives with his wife in Laredo, Spain.
Date of Birth:February 7, 1812
Date of Death:June 18, 1870
Place of Birth:Portsmouth, England
Place of Death:Gad's Hill, Kent, England
Education:Home-schooling; attended Dame School at Chatham briefly and Wellington
Read an Excerpt
Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge's name was good upon' Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don't know how many years. Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, his sole mourner.
Scrooge never painted out Old Marley's name however. There it yet stood, years afterwards, above the warehouse door: Scrooge and Marley. The firm was known as Scrooge and Marley Sometimes people new to the business called Scrooge Scrooge, and sometimes Marley He answered to both names. It was all the same to him.
Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, was Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!
Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, "My dear Scrooge, how are you? when will you come to see me?" No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was o'clock, no man or woman ever once in all his fife inquired the way to such and such a place, of Scrooge. Even the blindmen's dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, "no eye at all is better than an evil eye, darkmaster!"
But what did Scrooge care!
Once upon a time of all the good days in the year, upon a Christmas Eve-old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house. It was cold, bleak, bitMg foggy weather and the city clocks had only just gone three, but it was quite dark already.
The door of Scrooge's countinghouse was open that he might keel) his eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal litde cell beyond a sort of tank-was copying letters. Scrooge had a very small fire., but the clerk's fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn't replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of a strong imagination, he failed.
"A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!" cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge's nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation Scrooge had of his approach.
"Bah!" said Scrooge, "Humbug!"'
"Christmas a humbug, uncle! You don't mean that, I am sure."
"I do. Out upon merry Christmas. What's Christmas time to you buta time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a yearolder, and not an hour ri cher; a time for balanci ing your books and having every item in 'em through a round dozen of months presented deadagainst you? If I had my will, every idiot who goes about with 'MerryChristmas,' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, andburied with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!"
"Nephew! Keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it mine."
"Keep it! But you don't keep it."
"Let me leave it alone, then. Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!"
"There are many things from which I might have derived good, bywhich I have not profited, I dare say, Christmas among the rest. But I amsure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round-apart from the veneration due to its sacred origin, if anything belong' ingto it can be apart from that as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitab1e, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of theyear, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-uphearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really werefellow-travellcrs to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound onother Journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!"
The clerk in the tank involuntarily applauded.
"Let me hear another sound from you," said Scrooge, "and you'll keep your Christmas by losing your situation. You're quite a powerful speaker, sir," he added, turning to his nephew. "I wonder you don't go into Parliament."
"Don't be angry, uncle. Come! Dine with us tomorrow."
Scrooge said that he would see him yes, indeed he did. He went the whole length of the expression, and said that he would see him 'in that extremity first.
"But why?" cried Scrooge's nephew. "Why
"Why did you get married?"
"Because I fell in love."
"Because you fell in love!" growled Scrooge, as if that were the only one thing in the world more ridiculous than a merry Christmas. "Good afternoon!"
"Nay, uncle, but you never came to see me before that happened. Why give it as a reason for not coming now?"
"I want nothing from you; I ask nothing of you; why cannot we be friends?"
"I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you so resolute. We have never had any quarrel, to which I have been a party. But I have made the trial in homage to Christmas, and I'll keep my Christmas humour to the last. So A Merry Christmas, uncle!"
Table of Contents
Christmas Eve The first of the three spirits The second of the three spirits The last of the spirits The end of it.
What People are Saying About This
“This Penguin Christmas Classics edition is so pretty it could double as a holiday centerpiece!” —People
“For lit nerds and loved ones who are notoriously hard to shop for, you can’t go wrong with these festively bound classics. . . . Their size makes them perfectly stocking-stuffable.” —Entertainment Weekly, “The Must List”
“Leave it to the folks at Penguin—who gave us Gothed-out editions of horror classics for Halloween—to package these . . . slim Yuletide-themed volumes.” —Newsday, “Best Books to Give as Holiday Gifts”
“Remember how Christmas was celebrated before Black Friday with these 19th-century authors, in small uniform volumes wrapped in pretty jackets.” —USA Today, “Holiday Gift Books So Pretty, No Need to Wrap”
“Beautifully designed.” —The Washington Post
"A sure-fire tear-jerker. At one public reading by Dickens in Boston, there were 'so many pocket handkerchiefs it looked as if a snowstorm had gotten into the hall.'" Sunday Express
"It has it all: a spooky ghost story, a heartwarming redemption, and a great plot with a satisfyingly ending." Times
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for An Atlas of Impossible Longing includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
In this reimagining of Charles Dickens’s classic, Great Expectations, Pip is an orphaned young werewolf living with his ill-tempered sister and her gentle husband, the blacksmith Joe Gargery. One fateful night, visiting his parents’ grave under the full moon, Pip encounters a frightening stranger—another werewolf and a convict no less. Too afraid to do anything other than obey the stranger’s instruction, Pip helps this convict and sets in motion of chain of events that will forever change the course of his life. Pip is sent to reside with Miss Havisham, a vampire who was sired and left on her wedding day by the one she loved. She has adopted Estella and raised her as a vampire slayer, to seek revenge on the supernatural creatures that she blames for her ruin. Pip, in awe of Estella’s beauty, falls instantly in love with her despite the fact that she has been trained to hate all “Scapegraces.” When an anonymous benefactor sends Pip to London to become a gentleman, he believes it is his chance to win Estella’s hand. The question that lies ahead is whether Pip will be able to overcome his wolfish ways and turn his once grave expectations for himself into great ones.
TOPICS AND QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. In Pip’s world, the term “Scapegraces” is used to define “those of a supernatural sort” (p. 11). What do you think this term implies about the way that creatures like werewolves and vampires were viewed in this society?
2. On page 12, Pip wonders, “Was it a crime to merely be different?” While being a werewolf is simply a condition inherited at birth, vampires prey on the living to increase their population, and yet are “considered civilized and welcome to mix in society.” Is one creature more monstrous than the other? Do both werewolves and vampires have the capacity for good and evil?
3. After being invited to Miss Havisham’s and then later learning of his anonymous benefactor, Pip often feels ashamed of his roots, and of Joe’s commonness even more so than his own Scapegrace status. Yet Joe never seems to exhibit any embarrassment over Pip’s wolfishness. What does this say about each of their characters? What influences the focus of Pip’s shame?
4. When Mrs. Joe dies (the first time), Pip finds what he knows to be evidence of Magwitch’s crime, but he still does not accuse him. Why do you think Pip believes that Magwitch is innocent of this crime when the main piece of evidence points directly to him?
5. Throughout most of the story, Estella is cold-hearted and shows no affection for Pip despite his unwavering love for her. Why should he love someone who could possibly end up killing him in her crusade against Scapegraces? What makes him fall in love with her in the first place? Why do you think Pip continues to pursue someone who will never return his feelings?
6. Pip and Herbert have a very special friendship. Do you think this brotherly love grew out of the wolfish need to be part of a pack? Or something more human?
7. While Miss Havisham is herself a vampire, she has trained Estella in the ways of vampire slaying. Pip wonders “if Miss Havisham weren’t really wishing to be staked by Estella one day in raising her to such an art” (p. 235). Do you agree? Do you think Miss Havisham’s eventual outcome either supports or refutes this opinion? Why does Estella never stake her, if indeed her mission is to kill vampires?
8. Pip is horrified when he finds out the Magwitch has been his anonymous benefactor all along. Why do you think this revelation is so abhorrent to Pip, when he seems so willing to not only protect Magwitch and keep him safe, but to also protect his feelings by not revealing his disappointment?
9. On page 284, Pip explains to Miss Havisham that there are certain Scapegraces who “showed more humanity than the humans.” Discuss which of the Scapegraces behave with the utmost humanity, and which of the human characters exhibit what could be categorized as monstrous behavior?
10. How does the discovery of Estella’s parentage change things for Pip? Does it change your opinion of her?
11. Why is it so easy for Joe and Biddy to forgive Pip after he had neglected them for so many years? Should Joe have been angry that Pip spent so much time visiting Magwitch after he was captured, when he never kept up his visits to Joe like he had promised?
12. Though Estella is able to eventually see the goodness in werewolves, she never changes her opinion of vampires. Why do you think she can pardon and accept most Scapegraces and still seek vengeance against vampires?
ENHANCE YOUR BOOK CLUB
1. Grave Expectations is a reimagining of Charles Dickens’s classic Great Expectations. Have you read Great Expectations before? If so, how did the supernatural version compare to the classic? What remained the same in this new version of the story? What changed? If not, choose Great Expectations for your next book club pick.
2. Grave Expectations is a literary mash-up—where a fictional classic is retold in present day or with mythical substitutions. Examples include Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or the movie Clueless, which was essentially Jane Austen’s Emma set in Beverly Hills during the 1990s. Try creating a literary mash-up of your own with your book club. Pick a favorite classic and retell the story as though it took place in the present day or with some supernatural characters. The more imaginative, the better!
3. Legends of werewolves and vampires have been carried down through the centuries. How does their depiction in this work compare with your preconceived notions of such supernatural creatures?