4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Christmas Carol,
This review is from: A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings (Penguin Clothbound Classics) (Hardcover)
It might well seem that there is no escape from A Christmas Carol during the festive season, just about every popular television series has featured an episode adapted from this classic story and there are numerous film versions regularly being screened too, but none of these equal the brilliance of Charles Dickens' original story and that is why I make sure to read it every year.
A Christmas Carol chronicles sour and miserly Ebenezer Scrooge's ideological and emotional transformation after he receives Christmas Eve visitations from his deceased former business partner Jacob Marley and from the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Yet to Come. The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to visit scenes from his boyhood and youth which remind the old Scrooge of his youthful innocence and of his previous capacity for love and joy. The second spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Present, takes Scrooge to visit in turn a Christmas market, the family dinner of Scrooge's impoverished clerk Bob Cratchit, a miner's cottage and a lighthouse, so that he might gain deeper insight into other people and develop a sense of responsibility for his fellow man. The final spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, devastates Scrooge with visions of what will occur in the future to himself and to those he knows if he fails to heed the spirits' warnings and does not change his ways. Fortunately, the final spirit only shows shadows of things that might come to pass and so, when he awakes on Christmas morning, Scrooge is able to begin to change his life and personality, help those who are less fortunate than himself, and try to keep the spirit of Christmas alive in his heart every day of the year.
A Christmas Carol is my favourite of all Dickens' great books and is a story that always manages to make me both laugh and cry. While I have heard the story described dismissively as being heart-warming, I have always found the sentimental elements of the plot to be well-balanced so that they are effective and ring true without ever becoming sickly. It is after all a story about a man undergoing a radical change in personality and outlook and so some depiction of sentiment is arguably necessary. The story behind A Christmas Carol is so well known and well loved nowadays that there is a risk it might become passé and it is for that reason that I believe more people should read the original text and so recognise how innovative and important Dickens' story was both at the time of publication and now. The supernatural element of the story is clear, but it is certainly no terrifying tale and so can be read and enjoyed by both children and adults. I would recommend getting, if possible, an edition that includes reproductions of the original illustrations since they are a lovely accompaniment to the text and really capture the images and characters that Dickens describes.
While A Christmas Carol does conjure unforgettable images of darkness, despair and death, at its heart its pages are filled with images of light, joy, warmth and redemption and so it is no surprise that Dickens' work is often cited as being one of the greatest influences in rejuvenating the old Christmas traditions of England. A great book at any time of the year, A Christmas Carol is a real treat during the festive season and is a book that I make sure to read again year after year.