In this year of celebrating one of the country’s greatest novelists, Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Postcards from Asia are running a “Dickens in December” event and I have decided to join in by reading at least one of the great man’s works! Today is the day earmarked for a readalong of “A Christmas Carol”, probably his best-known book, and one I’ve read many times over the years – though not recently, I must say.

xmas vintage

I should confess up front that I have had to re-read this book before today as I this is my final day at work before the Christmas break and so finding any reading time today will be very unlikely (despite ACC being a short work!). I have a lovely new volume of ACC (plus other Christmas stories) in the Vintage set presented to me by my lovely OH earlier in the year, so this is the one I read.

There can’t be many people who don’t know the plot of “A Christmas Carol “- miserly old man is visited by ghosts and is redeemed and turned into a Good Human Being in time for Christmas. The story is ingrained in our collective consciousness – the name of Scrooge is now synonymous with meanness and the expression “Bah, Humbug!” was plastered over Christmas Santa hats when I went round town last weekend. So you might be forgiven for approaching this book with a slight sense of knowing the plot and wondering what the point of reading it again is.

Alistair Sim as Scrooge

Alistair Sim as Scrooge

Well, the joy of the language for one thing. From the opening sentence, Dickens draws you straight into the plot and writing is just wonderful. In a short work like this, Dickens’ wordplay is condensed to the essential and in some ways is all the better for it. He can paint a picture in a short paragraph that will stay with you and haunt you, appropriately enough.

What also impressed me about this work was the incredible amount that Dickens packs into his 100-odd pages. You get four main ghosts (and a host of others); misery and poverty; life stories; comments on the state of humanity; and at the end of it joy and redemption. It takes a real skill to get so much into a story which is so well told. As for the characters – well, there’s a beautiful cast and they come alive instantly. Scrooge and his late partner Marley, who are driven by business; Scrooge’s poor clerk Bob Cratchit and his happy but impoverished family, including poor frail Tiny Tim; Scrooge’s family including his nephew Fred; his first employers, the Fezziwigs; his lost love Belle – to name but a few. Yes, that many living and breathing amazing characters in such a slim novella – a sign of genius in my opinion.

And there are many messages embedded in the story about charity and meanness; the poverty and suffering in Victorian society, particularly among children; the curse of acquisitiveness; the joy and happiness that can be gained by having a family – but this never gets in the way of the plot. One of the most chilling parts is when The Ghost of Christmas Present reveals two emaciated children beneath his robes and declares that the boy is Ignorance and the girl is Want. Dickens was a crusader for social reform and the book reflects his deeply felt concerns without the story suffering.

Charles_Dickens_1858

This *is* the quintessential Christmas story and it would also be a fabulous introduction to Dickens for anyone who hasn’t read him yet and is a bit intimidated by the size of some of his books. I found this moving, scary and uplifting and I was knocked out by it after not reading it for many years. Thanks to the ladies for organising the readalong and getting me to revisit this one – I love it all over again!