Sunday, December 14, 2008

Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

genre: fiction
rating: 5 out of 5

This story is such a familiar one that I feel silly reviewing it. I suppose this is more of just my thoughts of the book, such as they are. I can't imagine anyone doesn't know the plot of this book - but to summarize, Ebenezer Scrooge is a grump. A miserly, selfish, crab who thinks Christmas is a waste of time and money. On Christmas eve he is visited by spirits who show him his past, his present and, based on the decisions he's been making, his possible future.

I have never read this book before. I have, however, watched Muppets' Christmas Carol approximately 20 times, possibly more. So, it was the voice of Gonzo I heard in my head as I read Dickens' words, usually verbatim from the text of the book. My experience was a particularly pleasant one because I read it out loud to my 8 year old daughter - she's also familiar with the story because of those lovable singing Muppets. I'm glad she was familiar with it, because even so I was stopping a lot to explain what it is that Dickens was saying. I liked the stopping, though, because we had some really interesting discussions about choices Scrooge had made and his behavior towards his fellow man. We also talked about what life was like back in that day and how things were different than they are now. The language is sometimes confusing and Dickens gets a bit long winded occasionally - but the good bits are SO GOOD and the imagery so vivid. One of my favorite examples:

They were a gloomy suite of rooms, in a lowering pile of building up a yard, where it had so little business to be, that one could scarcely help fancying it must have run there when it was a young house, playing at hide-and-seek with other houses, and forgotten the way out again.

or another lovely part, talking about the death of a good man:

It is not that the hand is heavy and will fall down when released; it is not that the heart and pulse are still; but that the hand was open, generous , and true; the heart brave, warm and tender; and the pulse a man's. Strike, Shadow, strike! And see his good deeds springing from the wound, to sow the world with life immortal!

Ebenezer is such an unforgettable character. The juxtaposition of his behavior before and after his visits with the spirits had both me and my daughter laughing. Some parts were truly spooky and his Christmas morning joy was so much fun to read aloud. I actually had tears twice as a read, I felt like there was so much emotion in the words. I know Dickensian language and style isn't for everybody, and sometimes I wished he'd speed up a bit - but I can absolutely see why this one has stood the test of time. It deals with matters of the heart and reaches at the core of all of us who wish to make our lives mean something real. For a great reading experience, this one gets five stars from me.


Bookish Ruth said...

I adore Muppet Christmas Carol! I can recite it word-for-word at this point.

I try to read A Christmas Carol every year, but have missed doing so for the last few years. This year I'm going to make sure it gets read -- it really is my favorite Christmas story.

Trish said...

I read the play a while ago (7th grade--so 15 years ago!), and have seen it a few times since. Love the Muppets version! :) I don't think I've ever read the actual book, though...need to amend that!

bethany said...

I am in the middle of reading this too :) for my in-person book club. too bad you don't live closer, we could meet up and chat about it.

I am so glad you liked it!!!

Anonymous said...

I have never read anything by Charls ... can u believe that o_0

I will read this :)

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