on February 3, 2010
I'm almost ashamed to admit that I've never read this classic before! After being fairly disappointed by the new Disney 3D movie version of A Christmas Carol, I decided it was time to read the book so at least I'd know the real story. I wasn't sure what to expect because I often have a hard time getting through the classics, but absolutely I adored it!
Charles Dickens is a true wordsmith; his writing flows in such a way that makes it almost lyrical. I won't go into the story, because I can't imagine there's a person out there who hasn't heard, read or seen it some form or other, but I will say that I regret not reading this wonderful tale earlier, and am eager to read more stories by the fantastic Charles Dickens!
I'll leave you with a quote from the end of the novel that's had me smiling all day: "His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him."
I had planned to listen to this audiobook during the holidays, which I had borrowed from the library. When I received a free gift from Audible to download this latest version narrated by Tim Curry, I chose to listen to this edition instead.
Ebenezer Scrooge is a miserable old skinflint who runs Scrooge & Marley, a counting-house firm in London, England. His business partner, Jacob Marley, passed away seven years before, and Scrooge runs the firm with an iron-first. His employee, Bob Cratchit, is given a hard time when he asks to have Christmas Day off to spend in celebration with his family. Cratchit maintains that it is only once a year, and Scrooge's retort is that it is "a poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!" Although Scrooge reluctantly agrees, he demands that Bob come in the following day extra early to make up for it!
When Scrooge returns home on Christmas Eve, he is startled to see that the brass knocker on his door has turned into a likeness of Jacob Marley. Later that evening, he is visited by Marley's ghost. At first, he refused to believe that Marley was real. Marley's ghost is covered in chains attached to cash-boxes, padlocks, and ledgers. Marley warns Scrooge that he is destined to the same fate if he does not change his ways, telling him: "I wear the chain I forged in life...I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and my own free will I wore it." Marley foretells of the three ghosts that will visit Scrooge.
I read A Christmas Carol way back in high school, so this is a re-read for me. This classic still hasn't lost its charm. It is a heart-warming story of second chances and redemption, which makes it a perfect holiday read! One of my favourite parts of the story is during Stave Three, when Scrooge sees Tiny Tim's crutch and asks the Ghost of Christmas Present whether the boy will die. It is already apparent that the events of the evening have begun to thaw Scrooge's hardened heart.
When I saw that Tim Curry narrated this version, I was immediately intrigued because Curry has such a big personality with a booming voice to match. He didn't let me down! Tim Curry's narration was fantastic! He does an amazing job of bringing Scrooge's personality across in his narration, and I highly recommend this rendition!
on December 27, 2011
I am a huge fan of A Christmas Carol - bordering on obsessive. I've read the book 45 times so far and still look forward to reading it each year. You probably know how wonderful the book is so I'll restrict my comments to this edition.
I buy every edition that looks particularly attractive or unique and have dozens of them on my shelves.
This edition may well be the most attractive one I have. The illustrations by P.J. Lynch are beautiful and plentiful. I believe there are only three places you could open the book and not see an illustration.
It's a good solid book with heavier than normal pages and with a type font that is clean and clear.
Great attention seems to have been paid to the smallest detail including the stitching and book jacket. Look under the book jacket and you will find the knocker with the image of Marley's Ghost upon it.
I'm very pleased I bought this book. There are several terrific editions of this short novel available but I doubt that any can surpass this effort.
on November 8, 2003
A Christmas Carol Audiobook
read by Jim Dale
I once heard it said that to appreciate Dickens best, one should read his stories aloud. I have never had the time to try to do this, but having just listened to a new unabridged reading of A Christmas Carol from Random House, I can see the validity of the statement. Playing the CD's I felt as if the narrator was, in the words of Dickens himself, "standing in the spirit at your elbow."
And what a narrator! The multi-talented Jim Dale reads the story...no, that is not correct...Jim Dale PERFORMS the story. I counted 42 voices in the three-hour recording. Jim Dale is well known for his over 200 voices (and counting) bringing to life all of the characters in the Harry Potter books, which he also records for Random House's Listening Library.
I first saw Jim Dale in the 1977 Disney movie Pete's Dragon where he played the bumbling villain. The next year he played three hilarious characters in another Disney film, Hot Lead and Cold Feet. I was lucky to see him in two musicals on Broadway, in Barnum, and Me and My Girl. Both very memorable performances. I plan to see him next month as he sings and dances Scrooge in Madison Square Garden's Christmas Carol - The Musical. I figure if he is great in the audiobook, he will be even better on stage. An actor has only two tools...his voice and his body. In the audiobooks, of course, only the voice can be used.
And Dale's voice talents are well showcased here. I often found myself laughing out loud, thanks to the combined genius of Dickens and Dale. In a couple of cases, the genius is pure Dale. At one point he adds a bit of a dog's panting that really cracked me up.
I have seen and/or heard other wonderful actors do one-man renditions of A Christmas Carol. A number of years ago a friend played a tape for me of John Gielgud doing an abridged version. I saw Patrick Stewart do his acclaimed one man show on Broadway; from the first row! And I have seen the author's great-great grandson, Gerald Dickens do his skilled and energetic version several times. They are all memorable and it would be impossible to say which was the best. But I can heartily recommend that Jim Dale's version be added to the family library. It is complete, it is accurate and it is a virtuoso performance.
Although I certainly know the story well, I found by listening to the audiobook I was paying closer attention to the lesser known parts...the parts that, to be honest, I usually would skim over when rereading the book. In fact, there were several sections where I felt as if I were hearing them for the first time. Marvelous sections. I couldn't believe I had missed them in the past. Maybe Jim Dale's voice just made them more vibrant than my own inner voice.
I suppose that asking me to review Jim Dale reading A Christmas Carol really isn't fair. One of my favorite performers reading my favorite story by my favorite author! But surely I am not alone. Dickens is universally known as England's greatest novelist. I wouldn't be surprised if Jim Dale was gaining a reputation as one of the world's greatest readers of audiobooks. They are both master storytellers. And to quote the Dickens himself, "If that's not high praise, tell me higher, and I'll use it."
on December 14, 2014
You know how people have a ‘traditional Christmas movie’ they watch every year on the 25th? I think this novella by Charles Dickens might just become my ‘traditional Christmas book’!
I don’t suppose there is anyone who doesn’t know the story of the transformation of bitter old miser Ebenezer Scrooge after a visit by the ghost of his long dead business partner Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Yet to Come. As we travel back in time, Christmas Past evokes such strong nostalgia and sorrow in equal measure as we miss a lot of what was, and still shudder at a lot of what should never have been. Christmas Present was one of the more bright and beautiful renditions of this occasion that I have ever read anywhere. The cheer and the sparkle of the sights, sounds and smells came out of the pages and surrounded me in a warm glow of true happiness. Christmas Yet to Come was such a grim reminder of how easily we could lose touch of the beauty of life, if we focussed on things that are really so insignificant when all is said and done.
This book was first published on 19 December 1843. Across the ages comes this heart-warming tale of unbridled hope and joy. And regardless of whether or not you want to associate this day with any religious overtones, you cannot ignore that crowning spirit of basic human goodness that this story shines a light on.
So much of today has come from this story, ideas and thoughts and customs that permeate this season. A book written over 150 years ago still resonates with us. An undisputed classic from a master storyteller.
It is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
Concepts that are a part of our life around us are created and espoused here by Dickens. Scrooge. Tiny Tim. The Ghosts. We all remember these bits and parts and what they represent to us. A Scrooge is a miserly person turned good. A Tiny Tim is a hopeful cripple who must be cured. And the Ghosts will show us the way to betterment. These have become part of the DNA of Christmas.
The genesis of A Christmas Carol starts in Victorian England with Mr. Charles Dickens. Born in 1812 to live a poor life, by his early twenties he had started his writing career and found success. Over the years he wed, fathered 10 children and penned several volumes. This works featured subjects like London, the time period, and the poor, with fascinating characters on display. He passed away (becoming a ghost?) in 1870, with an unfinished manuscript in his possession. He was telling wondrous stories right till the end.
And in 1843 he created what many consider his greatest story ever. When he found himself in debt, he created A Christmas Carol to be serialized in a newspaper. It became an immediate critical and commercial success. Something we all remember to this day. Was Dickens the Rowling of the time?
The story of A Christmas Carol is simple and straightforward. Ebenezer Scrooge is a horrible, miserable old man with a nasty, hateful outlook on live. His long suffering employee Bob Cratchit is poor and has to provide for his large family. The youngest is Tiny Tim, afflicted with some ailment and probably dying. Scrooge has the means to save Tiny Tim but no intention.
Henceforth on Christmas Eve, he is visited by four ghosts who try to change Scrooge's ways. Marley, his old deceased business partner provides the warning. The Ghost of Christmas Past makes him see where he came from and what tragedies created his woeful existence. The Ghost of Christmas Present has Scrooge witness the currents events surrounding his nephew, old love, and Cratchit. The Ghost of Christmas Future brings the doom and gloom of an evil time to come, with multiple deaths played out.
And at the climax, Scrooge must changed his ways in order to change destiny. Does he? I am reasonably sure everyone knows the ending, but I will not spoil it here. Even for a classic almost 170 years old.
A wide range of issues are raised by A Christmas Carol. Should the rich help the poor? Or, is being poor your own fault, which is Scrooge's position at the start of the story. Does every decision you make have consequences? Scrooge only seems to live in the moment with no thought of the repercussions. Is what's done is done with no fixing past mistakes? Scrooge does not view them as mistakes. He is a solid wall of unbending, unyielding ignorance of his own thoughts and actions. That character trait raises the most important question of all, can someone change?
Which means, at its core, A Christmas Carol is about Scrooge being a target for redemption. He is a nasty evil rich man who must change to save a poor little boys life. The Ghosts can say and do many, many things, take him to all sorts of places and times, but the ultimate decision of his fate is in Scrooge's hands. Destiny versus Chance. In this journey, Chance is shown to be the more powerful force. Everything rests on Scrooge seeing the errors of his ways. The Ghosts can only lead him so far.
This is an intervention on the cosmic level. Incredible supernatural power is expensed in order to reach this goal to change Scrooge, with no guarantee of success. God has assembled this magical apparatus and employs it as a tool for change, but still has left the final loophole of free will. If you choose to still be evil, you can, but God still has the option of taking you off the chessboard.
So basically Dickens was saying the following. You have free will, can make bad choices, but can still make good. And you get a multitude of openings to do this. Also, be nice to others while on this mortal plain. Since we are all in this together. And God is looking out for us.
Is it any wonder A Christmas Carol has become a Christmas Classic?
The magic of this story is so wonderful and the ideas so beautiful, it does not surprise me it has become one of my favourites. Add to this the amazing power of Dickens writing. From descriptions that make you believe in Ghosts to situations that make you want to hug Scrooge, the reader gets swept up in the journey. Victorian London in every time period is all around you. I want to reach out and touch the cobblestones, eat the food, and clutch the precious coal. The man is a genius.
The only downside to all this greatness is that it has caused roughly a million adaptations of A Christmas Carol to stage and screen. And the vast, vast majority of them are quite simply awful, even atrocious. Over the years I have seen so many many of them, and the massive, unbridled disappointment at the terrible treatment of the source material is heartbreaking. Did none of them read the book? Thankfully most have been swept from my memory.
But one saving grace exists in this field of mediocracy. An undisputed leader above all else. A Christmas Carol starring Alistair Sims was released in 1951 and is a masterpiece. Dedication to character and story was paramount, with an ending that springs tears of joy from within. Read this book, watch this movie, and be happy.
A distant runner up in this race is Scrooged with Bill Murray that came out in 1988. Not only did they re-enact A Christmas Carol, but they mention it as a book that already exists. Very meta and self-referential and fun. I still laugh and smile with this version. Another movie that pulls upon some of the concepts that Dickens espoused is Ghost starring Patrick Swayze. If you read the description of the the shadow creatures, then see this film, it is obvious where the idea came from. The power of this journey is everywhere.
And it is a journey worth taking and enriching your life with. Charles Dickens gave us as humanity a present with A Christmas Carol. And I am extremely happy he did. Thank you Mr. Dickens, and A Merry Christmas To You!
And Merry Christmas And God Bless Us, Every One!
P.S. A Christmas Carol is copyright 1843 to Charles Dickens. The cover shown here is copyright 1991 to Dover Publicans Inc. It is 68 pages in paperback.
P.P.S. A Christmas Carol starring Alistair Sims was released in 1951. See it in the original black and white and it is available on dvd.
P.P.P.S. Another good version is Scrooged starring Bill Murray. It was released in 1988 and is available on dvd.
on December 28, 2011
All these years of watching different versions of Dicken's "A Christmas Carol" can lead you to think you know this story by heart. Well even the best adaptations of this story do diverge from the original text. I read this recently for the first time about a week or so before Christmas and it was a revelation. Firstly, I found it a thoroughly enjoyable read. But there are differences. Scrooge is described and illustrated somewhat differently than all the versions of the character I've ever seen. There are scenes in the book that I don't recall seeing in any film or television versions. Conversely there are scenes in the filmed versions that are not present in the original book or they're extrapolations of something only mentioned in the book but not elaborated upon.
The illustrations are a wonderful and appropriate enhancement that lend the story added dimension and a genuine sense of setting. They don't look like period illustrations (too contemporary looking in style) but they are very effective and well done.
I heartily recommend this version of Dicken's classic if you've never read it before and even if you have. It also serves to give you a greater appreciation of your favourite filmed version.
on December 4, 2008
Dickens, it's said, created the British image of Christmas.
It would be a ridiculous but interesting challenge to name the world's most successful or influential work of fiction, but if it were attempted, this novella would be a strong contender. Crafted with all the brilliant wit and imagery of which Dickens was capable, it chronicles the redemption of an aging skinflint, rendered bitter and cruel by his passion for money, to whom life has become a trudge towards the grave.
Joy and love Ebenezer Scrooge has barred from his life, and for this, as his dead partner's ghost warns him, he is doomed to wander the Earth after death, chained by his hoarded loot. Yet he is to be rescued by the spirit - spirits actually: three of them - that burn hot and bright with forgiveness and hope amid the snow and of this darkest, final month.
Dickens wrote this tale as a protest in 1843, against the even then growing obsession with material wealth, and neglect of life's freely given riches. Tnd today its message is as strong and apt as ever. To me, Christmas has not arrived until I've seen it told yet again in one of its many film adaptations, be it the black & white 1951 version starring Alastair Sim, or one of the later versions in which George C. Scott, Albert Finney, Patrick Stewart and many others have portrayed the old miser. This rich and unashamed snatch at our heartstrings never fails to pluck mine.
Graham Worthington, Author, Wake of the Raven
Some songs, customs, and stories are so beloved, so familiar that they have become an integral part of our holiday celebrations. It wouldn't be the 4th of July without a parade; it wouldn't be Valentine's Day without a heart shaped box; and it wouldn't be Christmas without hearing "Silent Night" and a reading of "A Christmas Carol."
Every once in a while another version or recording comes along that makes the familiar seem new, we hear it as though for the first time. That is certainly the case with this performance of "A Christmas Carol" by the irrepressible Jonathan Winters. He inhabits every character from Scrooge to his housekeeper to Tiny Tim, offering in his own incomparable manner the way he thinks each character would sound.
Never has a Scrooge been meaner, a ghost more menacing or Tiny Tim more winning. Mr. Winters has been called "a one-man theatrical troupe" - indeed, he is as he not only presents amazingly different voices but sound effects as well. This is a one-of-a-kind version of "A Christmas Carol."
- Gail Cooke
Aside from the Bible, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is probably the most familiar and well-known book ever published. Scores of film adaptations have been made over the years, taking Dickens' story of one man's redemption to all the corners of the globe. The name Ebenezer Scrooge immediately brings to mind the miserly curmudgeon whose life and very nature were radically changed after the visitation of four ghosts one early Christmas morning. Jacob Marley, Scrooge's former partner, returns in spirit form to warn Scrooge of the ponderous chain he is forging in life by his penny-pinching, selfish, Christmas-hating ways. Then, of course, the ghosts of Christmas past, Christmas present, and Christmas future come to call for an increasingly troubled soul who comes to see the worthlessness of his purely materialistic life. A Christmas Carol offers a truly amazing character study. Scrooge, this seemingly incorrigible fellow, quickly becomes a sympathetic character as we view the circumstances of his life. From a lonely boy rejected by his father (who blames him for the death of his wife in childbirth), we see a sensitive soul, one quite capable of feeling and expressing both happiness and love, grow greedy and cold, shutting even the woman he loves out of his life. Completely broken down by the scenes revealed by the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Scrooge's transformation is remarkably real and powerful.
Little need be said about this timeless classic, as it is a story virtually everyone knows in some detail. The message is clear to all of us, as well. Dickens, the social conscience of the 19th century, illustrates the humanity and worth of even the lowliest of society's members and casts the harsh light of truth on those with the means but not the desire to help their fellow man, giving new life to the cliché "you can't take it with you." Dickens briefly alludes to the religious aspects of the holiday, but he vividly evokes the true and rightful spirit of Christmas in humanistic terms. This is a timeless story that will forever be a part of each Christmas season. Not only does it impart lessons of the highest order, it never fails to charm and delight you no matter how many times you have previously read the story (and watched the movie adaptations) over the years.