‘What was merry Christmas to Scrooge? Out upon merry Christmas! What good had it ever done to him?’ Ebenezer Scrooge is a bad-tempered skinflint who hates Christmas and all it stands for, but a ghostly visitor foretells three apparitions who will thaw Scrooge’s frozen heart. A Christmas Carol has gripped the public imagination since it was first published in 1843, and it is now as much a part of Christmas as mistletoe or plum pudding. This edition reprints the story alongside Dickens’s four other Christmas Books: The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life, and The Haunted Man. All five stories show Dickens at his unpredictable best, jumbling together comedy and melodrama, genial romance and urgent social satire, in pursuit of his aim ‘to awaken some loving and forbearing thoughts, never out of season in a Christian land’.
There is nothing like a little bit of Christmas cheer in the sea of stress around the holidays and there is nothing better than some Dickens to get me in the mood, as well as the blog snowing again!.
With a mixture of satire, romance, joy and sorrow this collection of short stories hits all the right notes for this time of year and made me feel very seasonal. Which was made even more impressive as I read this whilst dosed up with medicine in bed alternating my attention between these stories, sleep and attempting to watch all ten seasons of Stargate SG1. which I failed to do.
A Christmas Carol needs no introduction, it is wonderful story of redemption and vivid imagery. The thing that surprises me the most is that it is so tightly written, which is something of a novelty compared the authors’ customary sprawling style. It’s the quintessential Christmas story, its themes and timeless feel make this possibly the most flawless short story there is.
After such a timeless story, Dickens is back to his usual long-winded self, which isn’t exactly a criticism but the flow of the first story lacks through the rest of the book which is a shame as parts of these stories could have done with a little preening.
The Chimes is by contrast a lot more bleaker for the most part but again aims towards a redemptive message. The snapshots of life in the 1800’s reinforce the social inequalities but don’t let that put you off. The characters are wonderfully formed and of course the chiming bells are ever-present, leaving for an ending that can be interpreted by the reader in his or her own way.
The Cricket on the Hearth is one of those tales which, although containing secrets, misunderstandings, misguided love and a mysterious lodger makes the reader just long for everything to turn out right in the end. Intersecting lives and the troubles of love are a rich vein to mine and as usual it is done in such a warm and rich way that made me smile and enjoy the time I lost in these words.
Those first three stories are the strongest and really had me in the Christmas spirit, I struggled with The Battle of Life which is a pleasant enough love story but has a quite bizarre romantic twist which I found implausible and disappointing. As it is the time for forgiving though, I will fall back on that and show how magnanimous I can be.
The final story, The Haunted Man is a story I retain little remembrance of, perusing the plot summary on Wikipedia (I read these stories three years ago I should point out) to remind myself, I am bewildered to not remember anything about it. Perhaps I will have a reread one of these Decembers in the future give you a thorough review, that’ll be a treat for another year.
The book is worth it for A Christmas Carol alone, The Chimes and Cricket are wonderfully complementary stories as well with the final two bringing you a little more Dickens and for one of the finest authors of all time that can’t be a bad thing.