Saturday, December 10, 2016

A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens) - A Review

A CHRISTMAS CAROL. By Charles Dickens. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2016. 125 pages.

                Charles Dickens was a famed nineteenth English author known for his portrayals of English social life, especially the darker and seedier sides. One of his best known and I would most beloved stories A Christmas Carol, first published in 1843. In this story, Dickens tells of the reclamation of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miser who visited misery on himself and on his neighbors. The central character in the story, Ebenezer Scrooge, became the byword for selfishness and greed. Even if you’ve never read the story, simply hearing the name Scrooge will set you back.

                Every Christmas season my family and I will watch several versions of the Christmas Carol. I first encountered this story as a child with the Mr. Magoo version. Then, I discovered the Alister Sims version, in all its black and white glory. Over the years, I’ve discovered several other versions, including those with Patrick Stewart, George C. Scott, and Albert Finney. The last is a musical version. Each has a different take. Some stick more closely to the Dickens original, but they all take certain liberties. But these efforts are undertaken in interpretive fashion.  That’s what makes watching them so intriguing. How will the producers, directors, actors, interpret this story of a man alienated from everyone and everything?

                   Most will know the basic story. Scrooge is essentially a money-lender. He does quite well for himself, but he doesn’t spend the money. He simply collects it. He could increase the salary of his clerk, but chooses not to. So, Bob Cratchit and his family eke out a life, though they seem able to overcome their challenges (though hopes for their youngest are not high).  In the course of a night, after an initial visitation and warning from his former partner, Jacob Marley, he is visited by three ghosts, each of whom takes Scrooge on a journey that opens his eyes to the situation of his neighbors, and opens his heart so he might be transformed. It is said, that no one kept Christmas like him in all of London! The story has a happy ending, which might off some who don't believe such things are possible. But I say humbug to that spirit!  There is in fact a strong social justice message to be found here.

                There are several published versions out there. Having the opportunity to receive a review copy of a paperback edition published by Paraclete Press, to took up the offer. If nothing else, it gave me an excuse to read once again one of the most influential and powerful Christmas stories. I will admit that my understanding of the story is highly influenced by the film versions, but reading it opens your eyes to differing dimensions. It allows the reader to engage in one’s own interpretive work.

                This particular edition of the story is published as a paperback. It’s inexpensive ($9.99 retail). The print is good. It’s very readable. As a highlight, it is printed with the original 1843 etchings. This gives the book a certain connection to the original.  If you love Christmas and want to catch the spirit of the season, there are no better options than A Christmas Carol. I realize that I’m biased – it’s my favorite Christmas story and film. So, if you want to catch the spirit of the season, then this is a good edition to get a hold of! Take and read (and watch as well, but read, you’ll engage the story as never before).  Oh, and Merry Christmas and God bless us one and all!

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