The Christmas Books by Charles Dickens
|The Christmas Books by Charles Dickens|
|Genre: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie|
|Summary: This is a beautifully presented little book written by one Mr Charles Dickens. A collection of his Christmas-themed stories including the much-loved A Christmas Carol to enjoy and snuggle up with on those long, wintry nights.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 464||Date: October 2010|
|Publisher: White's Books Ltd|
I'd just like to say at the outset that after reviewing mainly contemporary authors, it's a refreshing change to have the chance to review one of 'the classics'. (I hope I do the great man justice). Personally, I love the classics and I've read a number of Dickens' - including Bleak House and Hard Times but I haven't actually read A Christmas Carol. I couldn't help but smile when Michael Morpurgo (who writes the short introduction to this book) says It is very difficult to sit and read Dickens' Christmas Books in a Devon garden on a sunny day ... Well, would you believe my luck when I say that, as I'm writing this review, it's snowing hard outside? Everything is, well, Christmassy.
I've enjoyed, like plenty of others, the televised programmes of A Christmas Carol several times at least and I also attended an amateur dramatic production several years ago which was so good it moved me to tears. So it goes without saying that I have the benefit of knowing this particular story even before I've turned to the very first page. And like similar terrific stories, the idea behind it is often breathtakingly simple but easily grasped - and enjoyed - by readers. And when I found out that Dickens' own childhood had its difficult patches, I can see why he keeps banging on about charity and the like. This is a common theme throughout all of these stories (there are five altogether). It's really all about trying to be kind to our neighbours etc. About turning negative thoughts into positive ones. Easier said than done, I know.
So, perhaps I need only to skim lightly over the plot: the three ghosts of Christmases, Past, Present and Future. And one old miser by the name of Scrooge. (Dickens has great fun with many of his characters' names and Scrooge is no exception). But the old bugger (that's Scrooge - not Dickens before I'm sued for libel) is a very lucky old so-and-so. Why? Well, he gets to see the error of his ways, gets to see himself through others' eyes and it's not a pretty sight. And while many of us would love the chance to make a few changes in our past lives - Scrooge gets the chance to make some pretty big decisions. It is a wonderful feel-good story at its heart with its 'hook' first line of Marley was dead, to begin with. Who wouldn't want to read on after that sentence?
I know that I'm giving a lot of review time to this one story - but in my defence, it is the best-known and best-loved. The conversation between the miserable Scrooge and his decidedly cheerful nephew is a hoot. As is when the 'new' Scrooge tries his rusty hand at a well, err, a decent conversation with his fellow man. But in this case it's one of Dickens' apple-cheeked urchins. However, in amongst all this latent jollity and good cheer, there's also the darker side of life, a few dark passages here and there. The work-house, the local prison, beggars are all mentioned in passing.
The other stories are less well-known and funnily enough I liked them less. My favourite was The Cricket On The Hearth but I also enjoyed The Haunted Man. They all have Christmas at their heart, to a greater or lesser degree and as with them all, philanthropy runs throughout. And yes, although Dickens' language is wordy and a tad sentimental at times, these stories, with their moral message, do stand the test of time. Yes, even with our homes stashed with computers, mobile phones and gadgets galore, we can still take heed of the message Dickens puts across.
This is a covetable, little book jam-packed with literary gems. I hope it sells like hot cakes. I think also that it will appeal to the traditional readers amongst us but may also be an introduction to a whole new generation. Strongly recommended.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
If this book appeals then try The Children's Book by A S Byatt.
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