on 22 November 2013
I must have been very good this year because it is not yet end of November and Santa has already been delivering beautiful things to me! This is the second hardback book that I receive this autumn, which dons a luxurious cover and an old-fashioned binding and which is a beauty to behold, inside and out.
This is my first book from the "Collector's Library" and I already know I want more. It was not even meant to be mine; I ordered it meaning to give it away as part of a birthday present to one of my daughter's friends, who was having a party and had let on she had not read this classic tale yet. I am ashamed to say that as soon as I saw it, I knew I was keeping it for myself, for it is a thing of true beauty. It has a beautiful dust jacket, which, when removed, reveals a pretty little boat and golden letters on the spine. The leaves' edges are dipped in gold dust, leaving an imperceptible trace of glitter on your fingers (not much to annoy, but enough to delight) that makes the book feel truly Christmasy! Well done, the Collector's Library. If there ever was an argument for buying "real" (as opposed to "e-") books this festive season, I am holding it! This would be an ideal gift to anyone, who you think might enjoy a bit of the classics this Christmas- and with a price as good as this, you could supplement it with a box of scrumptious chocolates or a good bottle of port and a nice stilton, to give them a real wrap-up in multisensory pleasure.
These things I say as regards the "superficial" aspect. As for the contents, well, they need no introduction. The stories included are "A Christmas Carol" (and who hasn't shivered with pleasure, when they first read the sentence: "Old Marley was as dead as a doornail" in the first paragraph of this indispensable story?), "The Chimes" and "The Cricket on the Hearth". They come complete and unabridged and the Carol comes with the original famous John Leech illustrations. There's a very good, if rather compact, afterword by Anna South (what happened to forewords, by the way; the current fashion seems to be all for afterwords; not that I am complaining: this way you can get straight down to business and read the boring, useful bits later, without feeling guilty).
However, be warned. The contextual information on offer here is on the limited side: short bio, short afterword, no footnotes on the texts, only two further reading suggestions... This is indeed meant for collectors, who have been in contact with the Carol previously. If you're looking for a "beginner's" Xmas Carol, then Penguin classics does a very good one (with the original Leech illustrations but with different accompanying Christmas stories, with a moreish intro, bio, and with those all-important text notes that you will be needing if you don't know what the "wisdom of our ancestors" means or what "The Union workhouses" were, etc.). And of course there are many more "Carols" out there in the public domain; every publishing house seems to have one.
But with a price such as this, I say you should not hesitate to buy this small gem now, no matter what other Carols you might acquire in your lifetime.
on 6 June 2011
The book is a lovely little 'fit in your pocket' hardback. The pages are thin (almost as thin as a bibles), but I like this it seems to add to the quality of the book. Also has a few nice ink illustrations in it. Don't think I need to say anything about the stories, they really are timeless Dickens classics.
on 10 December 2015
It was written during a six-week period in 1843, while Charles Dickens was working on installments of “Martin Chuzzlewit,” which was not a success with readers. It was different that the author’s other works; it was considerably shorter, and it was not to be read in installments but published as a complete work. Dickens must have felt the pressure of the tepid response to Chuzzlewit, given the successes of “The Pickwick Papers,” “Nicholas Nickleby” and “Oliver Twist.” Was he losing his magic touch with readers?
He was not. “A Christmas Carol” was a huge success. It didn’t make Dickens much money (he produced a rather elaborately illustrated and bound edition) but it solidified his reputation.
And more than that, in its own way it codified what we might call “cultural Christmas” for generations to come. It was adapted for countless plays, musicals, movies and television programs, and “Scrooge” passed into the English lexicon as a synonym for meanness and miserliness.
Rereading it today, one finds it’s lost none of its charm. The writing is vivid and expressive, almost breathless at times. The characters, even with the familiarity of a story that’s more than 170 years old, come alive in Dickens’ hands. Even having the plot of the visits by the ghost of the dead business partner and the three spirits of Christmas virtually imprinted in our cultural DNA doesn’t prevent the story from seeming fresh and new.
What Dickens could do with language and descriptions still inspires a kind of awe. Here is how the reader comes face-to-face with Ebenezer Scrooge himself:
“But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about him; he iced his coffee in the dog days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.”
The spirits, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, Scrooge’s nephew, and the other characters all receive this kind of description. And even though Dickens violates the modern writing dictate of “show, don’t tell,” it doesn’t matter here, because he writes such a rousing good story that we don’t care about dictates.
Does “A Christmas Carol” replace the nativity story? Of course not. That was not Dickens’ intention, not it is how we read and understand the story today. But it established itself as a Christmas classic when it was published, and it remains a classic today. It is, however, a story of self-recognition, redemption and change. And a wonderful tale in the bargain.
on 16 December 2013
If you want a book to fit in handbag or pocket yet still feel like a very expensive one, then this is the right choice! The paper's lovely, crisp, white and thin, the type is clear, the illustrations are classics and the stories, of course, need no introduction. Hardback, gold edged, integral bookmark - where else will you get all this for the price? A wonderful present for anyone!