A Christmas Carol

I haven’t written a book review in a long time. It’s interesting to me how this blog has changed and morphed and moved into new territories, but also a bit sad. So, I thought I’d write up a short review of a short little novel I read last week.

Over Thanksgiving we kicked off our holiday season with our annual screening of A Muppet’s Christmas Carol. It really is a truly wonderful adaptation of Dickens, which I think can be challenging to adapt using a frog, a pig and a…whateveritis…. But it had me thinking that I hadn’t actually read A Christmas Carol since I was a junior high student, and that it was high time I obtained a copy and celebrated the season with a bit of classic literature.

Of course, my initial reaction was “it’s so short!” Unlike most of Dickens’ contributions to the literary world, A Christmas Carol  has only about 100 pages. So, if you’re tiptoeing into the world of Dickens, it’s a great place to start. I was impressed that for an author who is typically long-winded, he was able to tell such a compelling tale in such a brief space. I didn’t feel like I needed more, or even an expansion of this little tale. It was just right.

Another initial reaction was how light-hearted Dickens was, particularly in the opening sequence. We’re all familiar with “Marley was dead: to begin with.” It’s often read to us with the same tone of voice in which we tell each other ghost stories. But I was surprised to find the very next paragraph our dear Dickens poking fun at the phrase “dead as a doornail.” Dickens has such a beautiful sense of humor and it really shines in these little episodes throughout the novel.

But as I progressed through the staves, I found myself thinking less and less about literary reviews and more and more just enjoying the tale. Dickens has this delightful way of creating both deep loathing and great sympathy for Ebeneezer Scrooge. When he tells you Scrooge was a “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching covetous old sinner” – you can’t help but despise him. For heaven’s sake – he thinks poor people ought to die to prevent over-population! He really is the worst sort of person imaginable. But when you are in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, and you observe old Joe trading on Scrooge’s bed curtains, and Nephew Fred calling Scrooge an unwanted creature – you can’t help but feel great pity. And when his change of heart comes, you want to celebrate the new Ebeneezer Scrooge.

How does he do it – take this covetous old sinner and make him (believably) giddy as a school boy? The mysterious and magical art of Dickens strikes again.

So, if you have a couple of hours over the coming holiday week to curl up with a glass of eggnog, a couple of Christmas cookies and this delightful little read – do so.

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