My first encounter with Dickens was during a school English class. We were required to write an essay on “Great Expectations” and I distinctly remember the painstakingly detailed analysis of the first sentence of the book, taking the teacher an hour of a lesson to repeatedly tear this one sentence to pieces and laud the values of using such long descriptive sentences. How we ever got past the first page I do not know. Not exactly the most positive of encounters and one which left me wary of Dickens’ writing. But, with Christmas coming up, and the excitement of the traditional family viewing of “The Muppet Christmas Carol”, I decided it was time to put aside my prejudices and give the original “A Christmas Carol” a try. And, wow, I am glad I did.
Scrooge begins the novel as the very antithesis of anything and everything deemed to be part of the Christmas spirit – he is cold towards others, greedy in his hoarding of wealth, and logical to a fault. After mean hearted encounters during Christmas Eve he returns home to find his old (and very dead) business partner appearing around the house. He is warned that three spirits will come and, as they do, he finds himself repenting first of his actions earlier that day and eventually of his entire outlook and life, changing completely through ghastly visions.
It is overall a well paced book that kept me wanting more. With particularly luscious descriptions of place creating great atmosphere throughout, whether at Scrooge’s dismal shop or the warmth filled Cratchit household, I was always able to easily conjure up a vivid impression of what was happening. The syntax of the prose flowed well and I never found myself distracted or put off by it so I was able to fully immerse myself in the story despite my earlier worries.
I felt myself changed for the better by the time I reached the end of the book, taking on board some of the Spirits’ lessons myself I think! I was particularly affected by Tiny Tim, as I’m sure so many who read this are, and I think his few appearances in the book will linger with me for a while to come. Often some of the best experiences are ones when we come away feeling like we have gained or lost something, whatever that something might be, and reading this book was definitely one of those experiences for me.
However I felt that Scrooge’s change of outlook seemed very quick for someone who was meant to have spent so many years of his life as an icy hearted man, almost to the point that I found it a bit hard to believe. Perhaps I just didn’t find the spirits intimidating enough or am too cynical about what could be changed in such a short space of time. This was a forgiveable qualm though for such a short story with little space to truly explore the way he changed.
I did hugely enjoy this read and would definitely recommend it to anyone. In particular if you’re looking for a good Christmas read and haven’t read it before now, be sure to do so. I found it a lot faster paced and enjoyable than some movie adaptations I have seen, so don’t assume you already know the story as intended, and it could be a very easy way to ease yourself in to learning to love Dickens, as well as bolstering up some warm hearted Christmas spirit. It won’t take a long time to get through and if you’re still unsure whether you want to try it or not, there are many places you can pick it up for free online so you won’t be lose anything by giving it a go!
“He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”