Christmas Books – Charles Dickens

Chrissie Carol‘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.

40 Replies to “Christmas Books – Charles Dickens”

  1. My brother always reads aloud at Christmas, and last year I persuaded him to read “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” by Dylan Thomas, as a change from having the kids all restless and squirming as the adults enjoyed the (complete) rendition of “A Christmas Carol.” Thomas was perfectly imagistic and on target with Christmas feeling, so it was a nice change. But he also read us “The Chimes” on another night, and it was quite some episode! Anyway, sorry to hear that one of Santa’s more misbegotten and mischievous elves brought you an early Christmas present of illness, and hoping you recover well before the holidays. Have some nog, that’ll help (it helps a lot with everything, if only you have some brandy or whiskey in it, as you probably know–but try not to mix it with cold medicine!).

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    1. I am fine now, just snuffling a lot but that is one thing that cannot be helped. I need to find myself some new Christmas books and I think I have Thomas’ complete works so I will have to have a look through when I find it, that pf course is always the challenge! The Chimes is such a change from A Christmas Carol, it is so sad and depressing at times but you always feel there is hope with Dickens, I felt it was up there with Hard Times on the bleak-o-meter of his works.

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      1. I have to agree with Shadowoperator – A Child’s Christmas in Wales is fabulous. I quoted a bit of it in a post on Dylan Thomas a year or so ago, actually: https://alastairsavage.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/dylan-thomas-lost-laureate-of-llareggub/
        I just love a Christmas Carol and it has two of my favourite characters in all of Dickens, because as well as Scrooge you have poor old Jacob Marley, doomed to rattle his chains in a ghostly afterlife.

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        1. I am looking for my copy of Thomas’ complete works after reading that excerpt it does sound wonderful! I don’t think Dickens put a word out of place in that story, it is perfection and if I didn’t know better I swear he wrote that Scrooge with Jean-Luc Picard in mind!

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  2. I have never read a Christmas Carol! I will now. It amazes me that Dickens continues to be relevant and funny(!). I just finished Great Expectations. A MUCH more pleasant classics read the Moby Dick 🙂

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    1. Yes Moby Dick is indeed a challenge! I haven’t read Great Expectations yet, it is on my list though as is David Copperfield. A Christmas Carol is great and only 90 pages long but is perfect for reading on a Winter’s night all curled up. Dickens will always be relevant unlike a lot of authors, which is an endless source of fascination.

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  3. I’ve only ever read A Christmas Carol but none of his other Christmas stories. I’m not sure I knew he had written other ones. What fun to read this in December.

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    1. Next year I will tackle his Christmas Stories which were shorter stories he wrote collected together, I must confess I am enjoying getting into the lesser read Dickens works. I always envy people reading a Dickens book for the first time but then I say that about all the great books.

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      1. I think I need to revisit Dickens’ great books as I read them in school so they are tainted with an air of “schoolwork”. And despite being someone who loved reading for school, I didn’t enjoy reading Dickens at the time. Too young perhaps. With age comes appreciation?

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        1. Age and not being told you must read them. School does ruin a lot of the great books but it’s great that we can appreciate them when more mature. The pleasure of rediscovery keeps the book world tantalising.

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  4. You can’t beat Dickens at Christmas. Unless you put it along side Jimmy Stewart, in which case it’s a difficult decision and be thankful for Sky+

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  5. Mad Martha spent a Christmas in Aberystwyth a number of years ago. Her travelling companion resolved to stick his head out of the hotel window and cry to the people below, “What day is it today?” to which the obliging Welsh people would reply, “Today? Why it’s Christmas Day!” But he chickened out at the last minute.

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    1. Haha, I can imagine the confused people not taking the cue, that or they are wary of a handful of coppers then raining down on them after the right answer.

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  6. One of these years I will re-read these (though I read all of Dickens’ novels once upon a time – I’m not a huge fan) – they are perfect for this time of year. Lovely edition that too.

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    1. Not a huge fan? So you’re that one person! You are right though, he does feel seasonal even when not writing for the season, which really should be used as a marketing ploy at this time of year to combat all those terrible celebrity and novelty books that adorn the shelves of bookshops.

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  7. A good review. We had to read Dickens in school, which soured me for many years. Actually I’m still sour, but not about Dickens. Even in high school, I enjoyed Tale of Two Cities.

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    1. School ruins everything! I wasn’t too enamoured by A Tale of Two Cities, I think it has something to do with the French…

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    1. I haven’t heard the audio, it sounds like the perfect match. I notice that the film is on YouTube so I will make do with that until I find the audio version.

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  8. You have inspired me to read a Christmas Carol aloud to my husband on Christmas Eve. I read my first novel to him and now, as I have stopped working on my second, I am at a loss for material. He’ll love it, and it’s seasonally perfect. Thanks for a wonderful idea.

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    1. This reading aloud seems to be a new world tradition that we have lost over here, perhaps that is why I have a sore throat, to use an excuse not to trip over my words if such a thing was asked of me. It is a wonderful idea and something I would love to have the confidence to do. Perhaps you could record your endeavours and put them on your blog?

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  9. I love the way you write about books/stories etc. Makes me want to go and read a book. Any book! Lol 🙂

    The snowing blog is so pretty. Have a great weekend. Hugs Paula xx

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    1. Yes! Go read a book, this pleases me, when i started the blog, I just wanted to chat and encourage people to love books as I do so you have made my day by fulfilling those dreams for me. Bug hugs. xx

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      1. Big Hugs back, little brother!

        I can imagine your part of the world will be cooling down quite a bit. Makes me cold thinking of it. Bug hugs back! Lol xxxx

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    1. having only seen the films and knowing Dickens from his full length works, I was prepared for something looser and markedly different, instead I devoured it in one sitting and it just made my Christmas that year. Timeless is not even doing that story justice.

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  10. A remarkable post and great tribute to Dickens when we are getting close to Christmas.
    Best wishes and thanks for sharing Ste!. Aquileana 😀

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    1. I had to rely on my memory of these stories which is always a challenge so I am glad you liked it. I wish everybody to pick up these stories and be of a cheery nature or at least get them as a gift for somebody else to marvel over. Christmas wouldn’t be half as great without Dickens.

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  11. Fabulous. Isn’t it great to get out these classics at this time of year. Your mention of Jean-Luc Picard reminded me of the time my husband and I saw his one-man show where he performed the whole of A Christmas Carol on a virtually empty stage – totally magical.

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    1. It is impressive how a single person with hardly any props can capture an audience, it is a talent indeed and an ambitious endeavour to tackle, especially as TV has killed off a lot of imagination in people.

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      1. Yes, nothing like the atmosphere of the theatre to capture one’s spirit and take one’s breath away. I realised with amusement that I had referred to J-L P in my previous comment, instead of Patrick Stewart – there’s conditioning for you!! But then, I am a bit of a Trekkie on the side…. 🙂

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  12. What a delightfully Dickensian collection, just in time for Christmas. I used to love taking the kids every year to the Melodrama when we lived in the States to watch A Christmas Carol. Never get tired of the story. Hoping you are up and about again and feeling much better…in time to enjoy the wonderful seasonal festivities 🙂

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    1. Apart from sniffles, I am pretty tip top now and feel ready to read and write my way through the Christmas season. I do hope that this is on a few lists for presents or at least rereads for the season. It is such a timeless classic but I have never seen it live, I would like too, I would dress up like Alistair Sim as that is the definitive film for me.

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      1. Oh that’s good, I’m so glad 🙂 And as for Alistair Sim, well, what more can I add? You already said it all with the word ‘definitive’.

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  13. As you suggested, I read this, much closer to Christmas than I’m posting this. I did enjoy it, and I’m glad I read it, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as other Dickens I’ve read. Which I suppose is quite unfair due to it’s length. Bleak House is my favorite Dickens, but I have several yet to read.

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    1. I haven’t read Bleak House, I have decided to go for one of Dickens’ more obscure works next to mix things up a little. Being a short book, it is a tight story but perhaps a little too light compared to some of Dickens’ other epic stories.

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