A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

>> Thursday, December 13, 2012

TITLE: A Christmas Carol
AUTHOR: Charles Dickens

PAGES: 110
PUBLISHER: Listening Library

SETTING: 1840s London
TYPE: Fictin
SERIES: none

On the night of Christmas Eve, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three Christmas spirits. The Ghost of Christmas Past confronts Scrooge with his youth, the Ghost of Christmas Present reveals the Cratchits struggle amid poverty, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come harrows Scrooge with dire visions of the future if he does not learn to treat his fellow man with kindness, generosity and compassion.


We always try to choose something Christmassy for my book club in December, and what could be more Christmassy than A Christmas Carol? Knowing that Dickens's stories were often read out loud (including by the author, who was famous for it), I borrowed the audiobook from my library. It was performed (and that is very definitely the word) by Jim Dale, famous for being the voice of the Harry Potter books.

Everyone knows the storyline of this one, and the first thing to note is that there were absolutely no surprises for me here. The reason I remark on this is that my experience with the previous classic that we'd read for book club, Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, had been just the opposite. I thought that I knew the story well, but on actually reading it, it became clear that my memories, beyond the well-known plot twist, were distorted impressions, nothing more. So I guess that I was surprised by the lack of surprises in A Christmas Carol. Surprised and, unfortunately, rather bored.

Objectively, it's a good story, made all the more vivid by Jim Dale's excellent narration. The thing is that the lack of surprises and relative shallowness in the characterisation, combined with the fact that I just cannot stand Victorian sentimentality (I may be a horrible cynic, but the descriptions of Tiny Tim made me want to puke), meant that I didn't enjoy it all that much.

Also, I was wrong when I said there were no surprises at all. There was one, an unpleasant one, and it was the completely revolting way in which Dickens describes Scrooge's nephew's wife:
She was very pretty: exceedingly pretty. With a dimpled, surprised-looking, capital face; a ripe little mouth, that seemed made to be kissed--as no doubt it was; all kinds of good little dots about her chin, that melted into one another when she laughed; and the sunniest pair of eyes you ever saw in any little creature's head. Altogether she was what you would have called provoking, you know; but satisfactory, too. Oh, perfectly satisfactory."
All those "little this" and "little that", and the way he calls her "provoking" just gave me the creeps. Patronising, dirty old man!

MY GRADE: Since I grade purely for my enjoyment of a book, C+.


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