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Reviews for A Christmas Carol: And Other Christmas Stories:

5

Dec 29, 2019

He told me, coming home, that he hopes 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.

My most cherished copy of A Christmas Carol is an illustrated Greek children's book that dates back to 1993. A gift by my grandmother who had a vicious love for all things ghostly and supernatural, it was the story that prompted my fascination with spirits and festive terrifying stories. ‘’He told me, coming home, that he hopes 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.’’

My most cherished copy of A Christmas Carol is an illustrated Greek children's book that dates back to 1993. A gift by my grandmother who had a vicious love for all things ghostly and supernatural, it was the story that prompted my fascination with spirits and festive terrifying stories. The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come still gives me goosebumps. For generations and generations raised with this book as the essence of Christmas, Scrooge and his haunting adventure is the personification of the true meaning of Christmas.

''Humbug!''

As Scrooge goes on a journey through time under the guidance of the three spirits, the readers may be challenged to look back on their own very real adventures. The memories of Christmas Past, past joys, hopes, regrets, and mistakes. Present reasons to be happy, present troubles that demand a solution. And what of the life that is yet to come? Well, the future is a dark hole, faceless and voiceless and waiting to come to fruition through a dynamic combination of Lady Luck's whims and our own actions. But if we are to believe our troubled protagonist, hope is always there.

Tons and tons of ink have been spilled for Dickens's masterpiece. For me, it is the characters that make this novel an everlasting, trusted friend. We all have a happy, carefree, open-minded relative or friend like Scrooge's nephew or Mr. Fezziwig. We can find an anchor to prevent ourselves from falling into despair in the example of the Cratchit family and Tiny Tim's resilience. And let us face it. We all carry an ounce (or more...) of Scrooge in us.

This beautiful volume also contains beautiful musings on Christmas Festivities, the deliciously disturbing The Story of the Goblins Who Stole A Sexton, a Christmas episode from Master Humphrey's Clock, The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain, a tale of a troubled professor and the spirit of the holidays, the autobiographical A Christmas Tree, the thought-provoking The Seven Poor Travellers, a handy Dickens Chronology, informative Appendixes, an excellent Introduction by Michael Slater and decorated with illustrations by Arthur Rackham and John Leech .

And it would be useful if fanatics on both sides bothered to pay attention to the following extract...

''There are some upon the earth of yours'', returned the Spirit, ''who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.''

My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.word... ...more
5

Nov 22, 2010

There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I might have not profited, I dare sayChristmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come roundas a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and “There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I might have not profited, I dare say…Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round…as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And there, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”
- Nephew Fred in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

As near as I can tell, A Christmas Carol is perfect. It embodies, in a very real way, Christmas itself.

Charles Dickens is justly famous for his big, sprawling, shaggy-dog serials, in which he spun intricate and twisty tales with the loquaciousness of a man being paid by the word. They are filled with dozens of characters, all of them lovingly observed, most with a laundry list of quirks. They are filled with ups and downs and more ups and more downs. They are seemingly designed to avoid reaching any sort of conclusion. Indeed, many of his epics, such as Bleak House and Great Expectations, have an ad hoc feel to them, as though Dickens himself was as uncertain of his ending as the reader.

Not so with A Christmas Carol.

A Christmas Carol is short, efficient, and tightly focused. It has a natural symmetry and a wonderful simplicity, with just a handful of characters and an all-time killer hook: greedy old miser Ebenezer Scrooge is visited, upon Christmas Eve, by four apparitions (Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come) who teach him a powerful lesson about the meaning of the day.

This is a book with a message, a thesis statement, yet it entertains while it preaches.

The visit from his long-deceased partner Jacob Marley (“dead these seven years”), sets out the parameters of the story: that three other ghosts will visit Scrooge to teach him the meaning of Christmas, and by extension, how to live a better life all the year long. The first meeting of man and ghost, a seriocomic scene set in Scrooge’s bedchambers, is classic Dickens, and manages to balance pedantry with humor (by way of some un-improvable dialogue).

Though he looked the phantom through and through, and saw it standing before him; though he felt the chilling influence of its death-cold eyes; and marked the very texture of the folded kerchief bound about its head and chin, which wrapper he had not observed before; he was still incredulous, and fought against his senses.

“How now!” said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever. “What do you want with me?”

“Much!” – Marley’s voice, no doubt about it.

“Who are you?”

“Ask me who I was.”

“Who were you then?” said Scrooge, raising his voice. “You’re particular, for a shade.”

After Jacob’s departure, Scrooge repairs to his bed, to await the other ghosts. First is the Ghost of Christmas Past (“Long past?” “Your past”),who transports Scrooge to his childhood, where we learn of Scrooge’s strained relationship with his father, his close relationship with his sister, and the lost love of his life, a woman named Belle, who Scrooge forsook for money. The scenes with the Ghost of Christmas Past have always been my favorite, because they toy with the very foundations upon which Christmas is built: a slightly melancholic nostalgia for the way things were, or how we remembered them to be.

In came a fiddler with a music-book, and went up to the lofty desk, and made an orchestra of it, and tuned like fifty stomach-aches. In came Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile. In came the three Miss Fezziwigs, beaming and lovable. In came the six young followers whose hearts they broke. In came all the young men and women employed in the business. In came the housemaid, with her cousin, the baker. In came the cook, with her brother’s particular friend, the milkman. In came the boy from over the way, who was suspected of not having board enough from his master; trying to hide himself behind the girl from next door but one, who was proved to have had her ears pulled by her mistress. In they all came, one after another; some shyly, some boldly, some gracefully, some awkwardly, some pushing, some pulling; in they all came, anyhow and everyhow…

Next, the Ghost of Christmas Present arrives. He presents as a jolly man, but the longer we spend time with him – meeting Scrooge’s clerk, Bob Cratchit, and his crippled son, Tiny Tim; looking in on the Christmas party of Scrooge’s nephew, Fred – the more of a dark pedagogue he becomes. By the time Christmas Present takes his leave, he is lecturing us about Ignorance, Want, and Doom (in many ways, he is the drunk uncle we all know and tolerate).

Finally, there is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, who shows Scrooge the misery and death that awaits if he does not change his ways. The silent specter is an oppressive presence, and represents Dickens at his most on-the-nose, banging away at his points with a hammer. Yet, it all sets up exquisitely for a rousing finale.

A Christmas Carol has been adapted hundreds of times. Thousands, if you count local theaters. It is a testament to Dickens’ creation that most of these adaptations hew so closely to the original. There is no need to add, subtract, or tinker.

(On the subject of adaptations, if you ever see me at a Christmas party, I will be happy to explain my theory on how every Christmas movie springs from A Christmas Carol).

This particular volume also includes other Christmas stories and writings by Dickens. Frankly, they barely rate a mention, at least relative to A Christmas Carol. It is hard to be interested in these minor offerings when compared to the alpha dog of all Christmas literary offerings. It’s a bit like having your Bugatti test drive interrupted by some dude who wants you to try his skateboard.

In the spirit of charity, I suppose there is some merit in studying these other stories, if only to compare and contrast them to A Christmas Carol. For instance, in The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton, you see many of the elements (a Christmas humbug, ghosts) that Dickens would later use to better effect. In The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain, written post-Carol, Dickens introduces another pedagogic specter. This ghost allows a man named Redlaw to lose all memories of his sufferings and sorrows, with generally bad consequences. This story blatantly attempts to capitalize on the popularity of A Christmas Carol – complete with a lesson! – and unfortunately indulges in Dickens’ weakness for overly-wacky characters.

Dickens has been called “the man who invented Christmas.” Obviously, that is not literally true. And it is not really figuratively true, either. Dickens was, in fact, building on traditions that far predated his classic fable. His bit of genius was to take this holiday and give it transformative power. Not only a day of celebration, but a day of contemplation. Not just a time to think about mulled wine and plum pudding, but to ponder those who are poor, sick, or struggling.

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” Jo grumbles at the start of Little Women, twenty-six years after the publication of A Christmas Carol. Such is the current state of Christmas. Those Cratchit kids, though, would never think such a thing. They’d never dare utter such a complaint; even the smallest goose was enough to satisfy them.

The values espoused in A Christmas Carol are timeless and meaningful. But it is more than a parable. More than any other book or movie or song or play, A Christmas Carol draws us intimately into the best parts of this yearly celebration.

That is why I have never tired of the story, no matter how many times and in how many ways I have experienced it. I love A Christmas Carol, whether it is in Muppet form, or Magoo form, or George C. Scott form, or Patrick Stewart form, or the original novella, which I read every year. In Scrooge’s rebirth, marked by a turkey as big as a child, and the promise of parties featuring a bowl of smoking bishop and Blind Man’s Bluff, we are given a version of an idealized Christmas: the table is full, family is present, and the children are healthy.

In presenting this idealized Christmas, Dickens manages to capture the importance of memory. When you were young, time started to slow in December, and then stopped completely during that hour-long church service standing between you and your gift-wrapped toys. As you get older, Christmas comes and goes much quicker, and leaves you weighing this year’s festivities (often unfavorably) to all that came before.

Years pass, and the composition of your family changes through addition and subtraction, through birth and death. Coming as it does so near the end of the year, Christmas becomes a transitory signpost. Our Christmas traditions, though, push back against mortality, and place us instead along a continuum. Sure, maybe Grandma is gone, but her ornaments are still on the tree, glittering like they have since World War II. Tradition keeps her alive, and will keep us alive when we are gone.

Dickens used Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come to change Scrooge. Those are also the very elements that we require in our own celebrations: the memories of the past; our friends and family (and some wine) in the present; and the knowledge in the future that this will always exist, even if we are not there to enjoy it. ...more
4

Dec 13, 2015

[First read: 2010 or thereabouts. 4 stars.
Second read: Christmas 2015. 4 stars.
Third read: Christmas, 2016. 4 stars.]

Ghost stories were the theme of Christmas during Victorian times and it's a tradition that is sorely missed. Charles Dickens is pretty much King of Christmas, and all these stories have a spectral vibe to them. They all contain the same kind of feeling to them, and give us a meaning to Christmas that I think we've let go of a little. Even I of a Scrooge nature feels blessed after [First read: 2010 or thereabouts. 4 stars.
Second read: Christmas 2015. 4 stars.
Third read: Christmas, 2016. 4 stars.]

Ghost stories were the theme of Christmas during Victorian times and it's a tradition that is sorely missed. Charles Dickens is pretty much King of Christmas, and all these stories have a spectral vibe to them. They all contain the same kind of feeling to them, and give us a meaning to Christmas that I think we've let go of a little. Even I of a Scrooge nature feels blessed after I have read these stories, not only because I enjoy all of Dickens' works, but because it gives me faith of a non-religious kind that Humans are pretty much alright, actually.

'Christmas Festivities': Under the pseudonym 'Tibbs', Dickens implores those who are less enchanted by Christmas than they used to be to let it back in to their hearts. Fairly relevant today, but his arguments do not convince me wholly.

'The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton': pre-cursor to A Christmas Carol and is an evocative imaginative short tale. Humble but with a lot to say.

'A Christmas Episode from Master Humphrey's Clock': Just a small segment from this story, which was serialised in several of his other novels, which shows how a kindness done at Christmas time can bring you more joy than you ever really appreciate.

'A Christmas Carol': With a transformation that would make Bumblebee turn green, Scrooge is the epitome of a Christmas junkie: too much and all at once after all those years of refusing. I'm surprised be didn't die of such an overdose of turkey and whooping. Surprisingly shorter than I ever remembered it to be.

'The Haunted Man': Very enjoyable and surprisingly longer than A Christmas Carol, though without the overall worldy blesséd live that emanates from that one: the same kind of feeling and plot, with poor families and various deaths. I think it was perhaps longer than it should have been, though the ending and message was not so bad because of that. A great memory to all the dead and how we should never forget them.

' A Christmas Tree': An odd little story that doesn't quite make sense. A good reference for what a Victorian tree would have been decorated like, but vague and rather tedious altogether.

'What Christmas is, as we Grow Older': quite droll and rather boring in truth, but I think it is a nice insight in to how Dickens thought about a lot of things.

'The Seven Poor Travellers': A condensed version of A Christmas Carol in a way, though not so much Scrooge than someone trying to make themselves feel better by helping others. Fairly archaic in plot and tone, but an ideal sentiment nevertheless.


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3

Dec 21, 2017

There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.

A classic Christmas tale, Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserable old man, who is visited by his deceased business partner and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come one Christmas Eve. Their intention is to help Scrooge realise the error in his ways and to help his transform into a better person.

Everyone knows the story of A Christmas Carol the story has “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.”

A classic Christmas tale, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserable old man, who is visited by his deceased business partner and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come one Christmas Eve. Their intention is to help Scrooge realise the error in his ways and to help his transform into a better person.

Everyone knows the story of A Christmas Carol – the story has been adapted numerous times and these movies are watched by a lot of people each Christmas. Admittedly, A Christmas Carol was never my favourite Christmas movie, I think I watched it once as a child and just didn’t “get it”. So I thought it was time to read the story instead, and safe to say, I really enjoyed it. I even went on to watch A Muppet’s Christmas Carol after with a renewed interest in it and have a feeling I’ll now revisit it annually.

It’s a great book to get yourself into the Christmas spirit, Dickens really excels at creating that atmosphere and the way you feel around the festive period. Scrooge’s character development and overall tale of redemption is well-executed and he becomes pretty likeable by the end. I love how it really represents what Christmas is all about – showing empathy and generosity and generally trying to be a better human. Well, to be honest, that’s how we should be all year around! But we all know Christmas is the time that people do show extra compassion towards each other. So, yeah, I really enjoyed A Christmas Carol and would give it 4 stars.

Dickens is known for being “wordy”, but thankfully A Christmas Carol does not fall victim to this. However, the same cannot be said for the other stories and essays found within this edition. Oh my godddddd, some of them just went on forever and it felt like Dickens was just babbling about a lot of nonsense. My eyes were glazing over and I sincerely regretted not just buying the novella on its own! Some of the other stories WERE enjoyable though, such as The Story of the Goblins who Stole A Sexton. However, the worst for me was The Haunted Man – actually longer than A Christmas Carol, it had me skimming through parts in sheer boredom. The stories almost felt repetitive at times, as if Dickens was trying to hammer home the same idea over and over again. Some kind of spectral being appears and makes you realise what Christmas is really all about… I got it! So that’s why I’ve rounded down the overall rating to 3 stars. ...more
4

Jan 04, 2019

This article on Dickens and Christmas nudged me into re-reading A Christmas Carol. The introduction to this Penguin edition even starts with the same anecdote, about the costermonger's daughter who asked Mr Dickens dead? Then will Father Christmas die too?

I rarely re-read books, not least because there are too many classics I wish I'd read, and which I haven't yet read once, to launch myself into a project of re-reading. But also because I know that re-reading is more time-consuming both to do This article on Dickens and Christmas nudged me into re-reading A Christmas Carol. The introduction to this Penguin edition even starts with the same anecdote, about the costermonger's daughter who asked “Mr Dickens dead? Then will Father Christmas die too?”

I rarely re-read books, not least because there are too many classics I wish I'd read, and which I haven't yet read once, to launch myself into a project of re-reading. But also because I know that re-reading is more time-consuming both to do and to write about, because it's not just about the book and the current reading experience, but a reconsideration of what I'd previously got out of the story. (This post is, for the moment, just about A Christmas Carol and not the other Christmas Writings. People's appetite for Christmas material is probably already waning on 4th January, and I don't expect to finish this whole collection by Twelfth Night.)

The early pages of A Christmas Carol remained so familiar that I thought it might be basically impossible to review the book. It was simply itself and that's how it was. Goodness knows how many times I'd read them when I was growing up - I'd been given two different editions as presents before the age of ten, and would have opened and browsed them frequently. The only surprises were that some of Scrooge's anti-Christmas rants were genuinely funny, and that he was suffering from a cold throughout proceedings. However, I found it less familiar once I hit Stave Two, and more possible to think about it as I would another book, although every now and again, there were occasional sentences that had resounding familiarity from childhood, because they'd just got into my head, like "who and what are you?" or because they were probably captions to illustrations in other editions.

It was hard to tell whether this is an effect of my own early habituation to the text, or if I was spotting genuine influence at work, but there is a tone here which seems like the essence of British children's writing, especially, though not only, children's fantasy writing, and fantasy stories which aim to have cross-age appeal. Did Dickens essentially invent it? Or did he simply popularise it so that almost everyone since has been influenced via his work? Probably its greatest contemporary exponent is Neil Gaiman - including with that storyteller voice and occasional authorial breaking of the fourth wall that has become connected with the trust many readers have in his public persona (a clause which I feel could be saying equally about Dickens or Gaiman). I don't read much in the way of contemporary children's or YA, but it's also the tone A.L. Kennedy was going for in her Little Prince spin-off, The Little Snake, which I read a few months ago.

Often the sentences seemed astonishingly modern - noticeably more of them would work in contemporary writing than would sentences from, for example, Henry Fielding, written a century earlier. Perhaps this is due to the overwhelming popularity of the Carol which has led a huge readership and reuse, often unwitting, of many of the phrasings. I did not find myself struck by modernity of wording in the same way when I read the less popular Hard Times a couple of years earlier. But just when I was marvelling at all this, of course there would come along some paragraph really quite antiquated and tangled to 21st century ears, showing that this is indeed still a work of 1843.

What never would have occurred to me as a kid is that Scrooge is essentially forced through a rapid course of psychotherapy in order to effect personality change - only he didn't seek it out himself. (Did Freud read much Dickens?) Its transformative outcome in either three days or one, depending how you measure time in the book, is one that promoters of accelerated programmes like the Hoffmann Process can probably only dream of. He is made to examine how the past made him who he is, including a number of painful moments which reawaken a dormant capacity for a variety of emotions; he is shown the adverse effects he has on others, and his separation from what are considered healthy social norms; and then to reinforce it all, just in case his repentance - to use a term from religion that would have been recognisable to early Victorians - is not yet deep and sincere, he is forced to look in the eye the probable future consequences of his current way of life. His response to the final Spirit is basically the idea of psychological integration: "I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future."

The main, intended, message of A Christmas Carol is one of charity, and, ultimately, in tandem with Dickens' other works, the need to improve economic equality. However, I think that alongside this it also ends up showing lavish material consumption (via spending rather than hoarding of money) as a sign of being good-hearted. (Picking out unhelpful influences I absorbed from books and films when I was younger is, for me, an inevitable part of revisiting them. In some cases these influences occurred because I didn't properly understand the wider context or social norms beyond the work, but in the case of A Christmas Carol I think it's something the text in its many forms has actually put into the wider Anglo-American culture. 'Moderation in all things', or lagom to use the Swedish term increasingly fashionable in English, is not what it's about.) Whilst Scrooge is possibly malnourished himself, living on gruel to save money, Scrooge's nephew's house evidently has more than anyone could ever need. Bob Cratchit definitely needed a substantial pay rise and decent heating at work. (Which I think of all the more keenly knowing some of my own ancestors were unhealthy Victorian clerks, and another a milliner like one of the daughters.) But his Christmas dinner sounds very nice as it was - and would he have even been able to cook that giant turkey? Would the local ovens have had space for a thing like that, which would have normally been bought by a wealthy household? Would it have cost them more to cook and delayed neighbours' dinners by taking up communal oven space? I guess in an age of extreme wealth inequality there is lavishness and there is poverty, and Dickens' own life story had a hand in how he showed this. Issues of the later 20th and 21st century - of prevalent commercial and media pressures to overconsume leading to stress and overspending, and of ecological depletion - were certainly not on the radar of the Hungry Forties, when mouthwatering accounts of mountains of food could provide thrills and comfort to poorer readers who were scraping by, much as the Cratchits were. Slater's introduction refers to real letters readers sent to Dickens also saying how much they loved the scene of the family's dinner. Which, it’s interesting to see, includes a Christmas pudding cooked in the laundry copper - would that affect the taste? (I assume the name 'Cratchit' is supposed to have a scraping-by sort of sound and perhaps to echo Tiny Tim's crutch, but its echoes of 'crotchety' and 'crabbit' mean it also sounds ill-natured in a way that emphatically does not suit Bob and his family.)

The abundance of works like this one, showing great positive change in difficult people, can also lead to frustration over the years, as one gradually discovers that, in the reality of adult life, people do not necessarily change and 'grow' as much as would be helpful - but that is hardly peculiar to A Christmas Carol.

However, in terms of evaluating A Christmas Carol by modern mores, I suppose one can't much fault Dickens on healthy eating! Often in the 19th century, meat and carbohydrates were valued over vegetables, which could be seen as a food for the poor. (No sprouts to spoil the Cratchits' dinner!) Yet a paragraph this ecstatic about veg and fruit (Dickens even sexualises it somewhat) could only fit these days into food or travel writing; anywhere else it would sound like a parodic escape from a public health campaign - normally it is cakes and chocolate that are extolled this way:
There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish Onions, shining in the fatness of their growth like Spanish Friars; and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples, clustered high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made in the shopkeepers’ benevolence to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people’s mouths might water gratis as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown, recalling, in their fragrance, ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shufflings ankle deep through withered leaves; there were Norfolk Biffins, squab and swarthy, setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and, in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner.

The notes in this edition seem very good. There is very little in the way of material so obvious it's patronising, and only a couple of things missed out which could have done with notes: " a twice-turned gown" and " like a bad lobster in a dark cellar" (in 2018 the combination of lobsters and basements made one think of Jordan Peterson fans; goodness knows what greater significance it had in 1843).

Something I keep mulling over more generally about Dickens is how he was, in his day, so effective in his social reform agenda, and so well-loved by readers, whereas fiction doing the same now - not least because he's done it before - easily comes across as either mawkish, or written by and for a particular small audience (which has in the past couple of years come to be called 'liberal elites'). As far as I can work out, reasons for this on a larger scale would have included the reform-mindedness of some 19th century parliaments, the prevalence of some strands of Christianity, and the abundance of cheap energy fuelled industrialisation which required better education and thereby societal participation of workers. Whereas nowadays many people are aggrieved about declining standards of living, making them feel, en masse, less inclined to share, and the economic underpinnings have a different trajectory. (Not that Dickens didn't have opponents, of course. The introduction mentions that the Westminster Review condemned him, in June 1844, for his ignorance of political economy and the ‘laws’ of supply and demand: ‘Who went without turkey and punch in order that Bob Cratchit might get them – for, unless there were turkeys and punch in surplus, some one must go without – is a disagreeable reflection kept wholly out of sight [by Dickens].’ But this was a predictable reaction from Utilitarian extremists. ('Utilitarian extremists' seems somehow an absurd phrase now, if utilitarianism is an abstract idea from introductory philosophy courses, but evidently they were a thing!) Yet although the sight of the poor was surely more familiar to the wealthy of the 18th and 19th century than to their 21st century contemporaries in many western cities, people were shocked by reports on working and living conditions - Earlier in the year [1843] he, like Elizabeth Barrett and many others, had been appalled by the brutal revelations of the Second Report (Trades and Manufactures) of the Children’s Employment Commission set up by Parliament.. Were many shocked this way, or were plenty of others inured? There was evidently some shift of ideas and sentiment which I've not really read about, and of which Dickens was no doubt part - it was not just underlying economic factors, even if they are the growth medium - which made those with power gradually start caring more and doing more. The biggest change was the post-WWII welfare state, but there was a broad trajectory of improvement over the century or so before that. Something I'd like to read more about.

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What Christmas is as We Grow Older is a short piece Dickens wrote in 1851 at the age of 39. The introduction explains the background: for some years Dickens had been struggling with memories of family members and friends who had died, and he had started to find Christmas increasingly sad because of this. This article is a kind of resolution in which he concludes that it is fine and right to think of them as well as of those present, and to remember youthful ambitions unfulfilled as well as enjoying what is happening now. (Although probably the latter had been easier for him, as a successful man.) It mirrors the integration he'd written about Scrooge experiencing, but after he'd had more struggles of his own that marred his wish to find Christmas special. It shows how much death it was normal for someone of that age to have experienced at that age in the Victorian era (very different from now, though I thought of one good friend who, quite recently, at the same age, lost a much-loved parent), and that regardless of its being a universal experience then, and despite Dickens' religious belief, it was still a struggle. I'm sure this is the sort of writing that makes some people scoff at Dickens' sentimentality (the bit about child angels especially); and I couldn't help but speculate that it might have annoyed people who knew the less pleasant sides of Dickens' character - yet overall I found the piece incredibly moving; it instilled a sense of reverence, and before the end I cried in a way few books have ever provoked (not just welling up a bit, the actually-need-a-handkerchief sort) and couldn't read anything else straight afterwards.

(4 Jan 2019)

Finished the collection, Dec 2019. Disappointing to realise this doesn't include all Dickens' Christmas books. The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth and The Battle of Life are not here. In the status updates, there are notes on the other six stories which *are*, read in December 2019. ...more
5

Sep 14, 2013

Only Mr Charles Dickens could ever dream of animating Christmas Fayre with his wonderous prose as he does some chestnuts and a Spanish Onion in A Christmas Carol .
There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out onto the street in there apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown faced, wide girthed Spanish Onions, shining in the fatness of their growth like Spanish Friars; and winking from their Only Mr Charles Dickens could ever dream of animating Christmas Fayre with his wonderous prose as he does some chestnuts and a Spanish Onion in A Christmas Carol .
There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out onto the street in there apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown faced, wide –girthed Spanish Onions, shining in the fatness of their growth like Spanish Friars; and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung mistletoe .
The way he relates the visitations of the spirits indeed I include the visit of Marley who he sees’ first in the knocker on his door are so visual in the description that as I said this morning the film makers over the years of this tale been made had a relatively easy time of it because the characters were all there so well formed and described.
I loved this book , it was the first time of reading it for me and I have a feeling that I may read it again if not all of it then for certain parts of it before Christmas.

So Mr Dickens for me you are the master at story telling .I thank you for your stories and cannot wait to read more in the coming year.

p.s If you read only one book over Christmas make it this one it is joyous.

Merry Christmas xx

Update 22 December 2015
Each time I read this story it is more perfect. I see the characters in my minds eye especially the spirits that visit our poor Mr Scrooge.
I won't add anymore quotes into my review but just a little note to myself for next year about Mr Fezziwigs party, so well described I felt I was there watching with Scrooge and the spirit of Christmas past.
Again Merry Christmas to you all. x

Re re re re read December 2018.
Nothing I can add to my previous comments but this , since I first read this incredible story about 5 years ago maybe, I have re read it every year since. It never gets old,it never gets stale or repetitive, I love it as much or even more now than the first time I read it
I will read A Christmas carol every year.It is for me the best Christmas story.
(Please don't throw The nativity at me)
So there we are. All thats left is to wish you a merry time with your loved ones and a happy new year too. xx

2019 update.
For the last 7 years this book has been a must read in December for me and without exception it always makes me smile and fills my heart with joy.
I love this incredible Christmas book and the man who wrote it is without doubt one of the best writers I've ever had the pleasure to read..
Happy Christmas to you all .. xx ...more
4

Dec 18, 2016

3.75/5

cute! i was warned a million times about dickens's wordiness, but i had no problem with it here. (i'm very wordy myself when writing, so it'd be hypocritical to hate it.)

this never fully grabbed my attention, but i never minded reading it. i've of course seen the story done before (community theater! the mickey cartoon! etc etc) so it wasn't fresh by any means, but i'm glad i read it.

bottom line: this is a good read-in-a-lifetime book! i recommend it.
4

Dec 23, 2016

3.5 stars
4 stars for A Christmas Carol/2 or 3 for the others

I'm not sure how I've gotten to be the age I am without ever reading A Christmas Carol (I've never seen the movie either). I'm really glad that I decided to rectify that problem this year. I really enjoyed the well known tale of the ghosts of Christmas. The other stories were not bad but I didn't feel they had the same magic. This collection has some really interesting information in an appendix on Dickens's use of The Arabian Nights, a 3.5 stars
4 stars for A Christmas Carol/2 or 3 for the others

I'm not sure how I've gotten to be the age I am without ever reading A Christmas Carol (I've never seen the movie either). I'm really glad that I decided to rectify that problem this year. I really enjoyed the well known tale of the ghosts of Christmas. The other stories were not bad but I didn't feel they had the same magic. This collection has some really interesting information in an appendix on Dickens's use of The Arabian Nights, a book which I really want to read. ...more
4

Oct 27, 2017

**Please note, this review is for the specific Readers Digest edition. For my reviews of the text of these three books, please see my shelves. **

The books published by the Readers Digest Association are always beautifully produced, albeit they do not have ISBNs and perhaps are not regarded as mainstream publishing. This one is no exception. It is a hardback, with a green leatherette cover, and a red spine. Gold tooling is used for the title, the author, and for the decorative border. Inside, **Please note, this review is for the specific “Readers Digest” edition. For my reviews of the text of these three books, please see my shelves. **

The books published by the “Readers Digest Association” are always beautifully produced, albeit they do not have ISBNs and perhaps are not regarded as mainstream publishing. This one is no exception. It is a hardback, with a green leatherette cover, and a red spine. Gold tooling is used for the title, the author, and for the decorative border. Inside, the paper used is heavy quality, smooth and creamy white (not glaring) and the print is dense and clear. It is sturdily bound, does not stay open, but equally is easy to hold open at the correct angle. As I say, they are nice, quality books.



This one contains the first three stories from the collection of five “Christmas Books”, written by Charles Dickens. The first is the perennially popular “A Christmas Carol” from 1843. The following year he wrote “The Chimes” which was published at Christmas in 1844, followed by “The Cricket on the Hearth” for Christmas in 1845. He was to write two more, but their popularity decreased year by year, so from then on Dickens was to write a considerable shorter Christmas story to publish in his magazine, and there are twenty more of these.



The first ever Christmas book, the novella “A Christmas Carol”, has been published in many editions. This one has the rare treat of including copious illustrations by the very talented - and unmistakable - Arthur Rackham, one of the leading illustrators from the “Golden Age” of British book illustration, during the first half of the 20th century. There are watercolours, incorporating some outline pen work, pen and India ink drawings, and silhouettes, all of which are listed at the beginning. The first page of the text is devoted to a list of characters, printed with a border, and looking rather like a theatre programme. The text follows with each colour illustration given a full page, and the black and white ones varying.



“The Chimes” also has illustrations by Arthur Rackham: watercolours, ink drawings, and silhouettes as before, although there are fewer because this is a shorter book. The characters in this one too are listed at the beginning.



“The Cricket on the Hearth” published for Christmas in 1845, uses different illustrators: Robert and Barbara Buchanan. Although an attempt has been made to match the techniques, the palette, and the style used, these are clearly modern illustrations, with none of the energy, verve and character of Arthur Rackham.

Altogether though, this is a lovely book to have. Even Dickens’s two short Prefaces have been included, and there are a few pages of an “Afterword”, adapted from “The Greatest Little Book in the World” by A. Edward Newton, which was first published in 1923.

Here are links to my reviews of the text of each of these three books:

A Christmas Carol ... Jean's review

The Chimes ... Jean's review

The Cricket on the Hearth ... Jean's review ...more
4

Nov 26, 2014

Whenever I start a book like this, I expect for it to put me in the Christmas mood, and so it did! From the very first page, I could feel the crispness of the snow under my feet and the chill of the weather, and I didn't mind at all that we were in a graveyard!
Most of these Christmas stories contain pure magic - I especially loved the Sexton one and the legendary A Christmas Carol. Other stories didn't intrigue me that much but they still put me in the mood for Christmas. So all in all, I would Whenever I start a book like this, I expect for it to put me in the Christmas mood, and so it did! From the very first page, I could feel the crispness of the snow under my feet and the chill of the weather, and I didn't mind at all that we were in a graveyard!
Most of these Christmas stories contain pure magic - I especially loved the Sexton one and the legendary A Christmas Carol. Other stories didn't intrigue me that much but they still put me in the mood for Christmas. So all in all, I would say that this book was a success that needs to be repeated every Christmas in the many years to come. ...more
5

Dec 21, 2014

"I have always thought of Christmas time as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely."
5

Dec 17, 2017

Honestly what can I even say about this book other than it is a timeless classic and the best thing to read at Christmas time! <3
2

Dec 01, 2009

I suppose that a story that is so ubiquitous during Christmas time as this one needs no introduction. I can see why it has been constantly popular for more than one hundred years. I appreciate the writing and craft that goes into the story, the social commentary, the worthy morals, and the affection that generations of readers have for it. But I hated it. Yes, it's official, I'm the Grinch and (pre-reformed) Scrooge rolled into one. I have a heart made of stone, or at least something equally I suppose that a story that is so ubiquitous during Christmas time as this one needs no introduction. I can see why it has been constantly popular for more than one hundred years. I appreciate the writing and craft that goes into the story, the social commentary, the worthy morals, and the affection that generations of readers have for it. But I hated it. Yes, it's official, I'm the Grinch and (pre-reformed) Scrooge rolled into one. I have a heart made of stone, or at least something equally hard, immune to the plight of tiny, poor, crippled tots and destitute Victorian families who couldn't afford a stuffed goose for their Christmas tables.

I found the story to be simplistic, with sketchy, largely one dimensional characters, and so drenched in sugary sentimentality that it made my teeth hurt. I can deal with sentimentality, but such a massive, industrial-strength dose of it renders me comatose, instead of being genuinely moved.

*slinking away to hide under a rock until Christmas is over*
...more
4

Dec 17, 2015

How can you rate one of the greatest morality novellas of all time? It's a Christmas classic! Preaching compassion, sympathy, empathy and generosity, A Christmas Carol is beautifully written, atmospheric, playful and politically charged.
4

Mar 22, 2015

Reminds me what Christmas is all about...the giving ♥ (2015)
Wonderful story of compassion.
The book also contains two other Christmas stories.
The Haunted Man is what I read this time (2016). Again the story is set at Christmas eve, a darker and more subtle take revolves around the fate of a teacher of chemistry, named Redlaw, whose lonely existence is oppressed by a host of gloomy memories. Redlaw wants to be rid of every bad memory of suffering, unhappiness, and wrong that he has ever known. Reminds me what Christmas is all about...the giving ♥ (2015)
Wonderful story of compassion.
The book also contains two other Christmas stories.
The Haunted Man is what I read this time (2016). Again the story is set at Christmas eve, a darker and more subtle take revolves around the fate of a teacher of chemistry, named Redlaw, whose lonely existence is oppressed by a host of gloomy memories. Redlaw wants to be rid of every bad memory of suffering, unhappiness, and wrong that he has ever known. His wish is granted, only to realize that he has destroyed who he really is! ...more
4

Dec 12, 2017

I rounded this novel up to 4, as an average for all the stories in this novel. This novel is a collection of Dickens' Christmas stories, including "A Christmas Carol", five other Christmas-themed stories, fourteen very short Christmas stories, and three short Christmas stories he co-wrote. For the sake of time and space, I have only included the five Christmas stories in this review.

A Christmas Carol: 5 Obviously. There is no need to sum up this story's plot so I won't go into it. This story I rounded this novel up to 4, as an average for all the stories in this novel. This novel is a collection of Dickens' Christmas stories, including "A Christmas Carol", five other Christmas-themed stories, fourteen very short Christmas stories, and three short Christmas stories he co-wrote. For the sake of time and space, I have only included the five Christmas stories in this review.

A Christmas Carol: 5 Obviously. There is no need to sum up this story's plot so I won't go into it. This story is the most recognized and traditional Christmas story in history and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Chimes: 4 "Trotty" is a pauper who is struggling to survive in a world that believes he (and others like him) should be "put down". The chimes from the bells of the local church ring out the rhythm to his life. When he falls down the church tower and has a near-death experience, he returns to his life determined to value those he holds dear.
This story is similar to "A Christmas Carol", except for the fact that Trotty is a pauper, and he appears to be undeserving of his harsh experiences.

A Cricket on the Hearth: 3 Told from the point of view of "the narrator", the young, newly married couple that are the protagonists, hear a 'cricket on the hearth' and deem that to be good luck. The story is a love story between Dot and John (our cricket homeowners), May and Edward (their young friends), and Caleb and his blind daughter.
This story is not Christmas themed (in reality, the young couple were married on New Years and they talk about how their one year anniversary is coming up) and unrealistic to the extreme. (We are to assume that rich, old Tackleton will simply give up his bride-to-be because he knows she is in love with someone else, who has miraculously returned to town). Dickens' stories are hard to follow with his archaic, poetic language, and this story had no plot, which made it even more of a challenge.

The Book of Life: 3 This story takes place around Christmas but does not have a strong holiday theme, and, like its previous stories, it revolves around a near-death experience which challenges the main characters to re-examine their world views. In this story, one sister sacrifices the love of her life for her sister (who has been in love with him for years) which, although altruistic, is also unbelievable and speaks to the dated era of Dickens. I thoroughly enjoyed the roles of Clementine and Britain however, the two destined housekeepers.

The Haunted Man: 4 This story is most similar to "The Christmas Carol". Our main character, the Chemist Redlaw, has had his memories of loss, pain and trauma taken away from him (voluntarily) and he spends the plot of the story trying to regain them, as he learns that he cannot fully appreciate happiness without the counterweight of sadness. Not particularly Christmas-themed either, but the theme is very reminiscent of the season.

I enjoyed the introduction particularly, as it detailed the life of Charles Dickens and how he came to write "A Christmas Carol" and its subsequent stories. I became entirely obsessed with his life after this, and believe he deserves full props and respect for being the literary figure he is. These stories are difficult to read due to their poetic language (think Shakespeare) but the themes remain true and the literary caliber is five-star.
...more
4

Dec 25, 2017

A Christmas Carol
5 out of 5 stars
[I copied this from my original review of it, which can be found here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...]

This book is weird. This book is spooky. This book is deep. But it also captures so perfectly the essence of Christmasthat goodwill towards mankindthat makes the season so beautifuland now can Christmas hurry up already?? (I may have read it a little too early.) :P

I have to say, though, that one of my favorite parts came early on when Marleys ghost A Christmas Carol
5 out of 5 stars
[I copied this from my original review of it, which can be found here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...]

This book is weird. This book is spooky. This book is deep. But it also captures so perfectly the essence of Christmas—that “goodwill towards mankind”—that makes the season so beautiful—and now can Christmas hurry up already?? (I may have read it a little too early.) :P

I have to say, though, that one of my favorite parts came early on when Marley’s ghost visited Scrooge:
’You are fettered,’ said Scrooge, trembling. ‘Tell me why?’
‘I wear the chain I forged in life,’ replied the Ghost. ‘I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?’

Though I don’t believe in ghosts, and certainly don’t believe that anyone is cursed to “go forth” in death if they didn’t in life, it was a very vivid picture of the chains we all end up trapped in at some point—the chains that only God can free us from. Marley’s chains were made of cash boxes and other things related to the miserly business he and Scrooge conducted. It was a sobering reminder that we aren’t to get so caught up in our business that we forget to be a blessing in other peoples’ lives. And that’s something we all need to remember from time to time—both during the Christmas season, when it seems to come so naturally, and the rest of the year.

Also, I’d just like to say that Scrooge is one of the most well-thought-out characters that I’ve ever come across, especially in older fiction. In the beginning Dickens introduces him as the most tight-fisted, crotchety old miser there ever was, but then he colored in his past and made me pity him, since he hadn’t always been that way, and by the end, Scrooge has undergone a tremendous change in his arc, and his joy at having been given a second chance was palpable.

All in all, it’s a new favorite, and will probably become a yearly Christmas-time read for me. (In fact I read it twice this December, after reading it for the very first time—which says a lot, coming from a person that hardly ever rereads books!)

The Chimes
3 out of 5 stars

Admittedly, it’s got to be tough to be the story that comes directly after A Christmas Carol, but I didn’t enjoy this one as much. It was a biting satire highlighting the way rich people brainwash themselves and the poor people under them with comfortable lies—comfortable lies about how they’re a Friend and Father to the poor when they really do nothing but Put them Down. That made it rather depressing, for a large part of the book, since the main character “dies” early on, and in ghostly form watches his beloved daughter travel a hard path on her own, and ultimately try to commit suicide, because she believes the lies. The darker feel of this one knocked off two stars, since I personally don’t enjoy that as much, but it was extremely effective in its satire, and the characters were vivid, and the plot as well thought out as ever, thus the three I left.

The Haunted Man
3 out of 5 stars

This one was a little darker as well, but not as much as The Chimes, I thought. It was kind of a rewriting of the Midas’ Touch idea... except instead of turning everything he touched to gold, the main character erased all the memories of sorrow and wrong that a person had. Which sounds good in theory, but those times of suffering help us to appreciate the good times all the more, and without them everyone turned miserable and ungrateful. It was really thought-provoking, thus the three stars, but it didn’t grab me as much as some stories, and it felt a little dark. (Not “bad” dark, just depressing dark.) :P

Altogether I rated A Christmas Carol and Other Stories four stars since A Christmas Carol had rocketed so high on my list of favorite books, but the other two weren’t as impressive. Worth a read, definitely, but hard acts to watch after the first, which was such a work of genius. :P ...more
4

Nov 12, 2018

This was supposed to be my December read. Oh well, who needs to stick strictly to monthly TBRs anyway??
I blame this on you, Hallmark, with your Christmas movies playing on TV in November! You got me craving so no one can really blame me for this, right?
5

Dec 19, 2018

I read this every year and it totally gets me in the Christmas mood.

My Rating: 5+ stars
5

Dec 22, 2018

A lovely edition of the Christmas books...

This contains the five novella-length stories usually known as Dickens Christmas books, in a lovely new hardback edition from Oxford Worlds Classics. Its beautifully produced, with some of the original illustrations for each story, and is one of those volumes that is a physical pleasure to read, quite apart from the contents. Id say it is perfect Christmas gift material for any Dickens fan, except Id never be willing to give my copy away!

A Christmas A lovely edition of the Christmas books...

This contains the five novella-length stories usually known as Dickens’ Christmas books, in a lovely new hardback edition from Oxford World’s Classics. It’s beautifully produced, with some of the original illustrations for each story, and is one of those volumes that is a physical pleasure to read, quite apart from the contents. I’d say it is perfect Christmas gift material for any Dickens fan, except I’d never be willing to give my copy away!

A Christmas Carol, of course, is a wonderful story – the ultimate Christmas tale and one of my favourite books of all time. Since almost everyone knows it though, I’m going to concentrate on the other four stories instead, most of which I hadn’t read before. First off, I was surprised by the fact that most of them aren’t set at Christmas – the name “Christmas book” comes from the fact that they were originally published in the Christmas edition of the various periodicals to which Dickens contributed. They’re variable in standard, though being Dickens, that means they vary in a range between good and excellent. None of them can compete with A Christmas Carol which remains the star at the top of the Christmas tree, but I enjoyed each of them individually, and have had great pleasure reading one each weekend on the run up to Christmas.

The Chimes tells the story of old Toby “Trotty” Veck, who becomes convinced by the unfeeling rich people he meets of the worthlessness of the poor – indeed, that they are born bad and don’t deserve to live. On this night, just before New Year, as he sits before his little fire, it seems to him the bells of the local church are calling to him and, when he answers their call, he is taught the error of his thoughts.

Well! This is Dickens in full social justice warrior mode, showing the dire poverty in which so many people lived contrasted with the smug and hypocritical rich, who lecture when a sixpence would work better, who wallow in their own well-fed self-satisfaction as they blame the poor for cluttering up their otherwise charming and tidy world. It has little of the humour of A Christmas Carol – it is dark to the point where it had me sobbing, with starvation and death, men jailed for the crime of trying to stay alive, women driven to prostitution, infanticide and suicide. There is a form of redemption at the end, but I certainly didn’t come away from it feeling as uplifted as I do when Tiny Tim asks God to bless us, everyone. In fact, I felt angry, depressed and as if I wanted to go and beat a few rich hypocrites over the head with a yule log – and I don’t mean the cake. So I think Dickens pretty much succeeded in his aim…

The Cricket on the Hearth tells of little Mrs Peerybingle, Dot, the (very) young wife of John, a middle-aged carrier. They are idyllically happy until a stranger arrives who disrupts the happy home and the lives not only of John and Dot but of several of their friends and neighbours. Will the Household Spirit in the form of the Cricket on the Hearth be able to restore harmony and joy to all?

John loves Dot with all his heart and has done ever since she was a child. (I know, creepy, but it seems to have been relatively normal back in those times – look at Knightley and Emma.) The question that John belatedly is forced to consider is, can little Dot possibly love him in the same way, or has he been unintentionally cruel in persuading her to devote her youth to him? The stranger is the catalyst for this dark night of the soul for poor, kind, honest John, but to take the point further and show another side to it, Dickens includes another couple about to be wed where the age difference is even greater and the bride is being more or less forced into the marriage by her mother because the bridegroom is wealthy.

It’s a delightful story, with plenty of room for jealousy, self-doubt, sorrow, generosity of spirit, joy and, of course, redemption. I enjoyed it very much and was left feeling pleasantly uplifted.

The Battle of Life tells of two sisters, Grace and Marion, who live with their father on the site of an ancient battle. The younger sister, Marion, is engaged to marry her father’s ward, Alfred, but when he returns from studying abroad to claim his bride, she disappears...

It is a rather strange tale, the least successful in my opinion, and not at all festive. The two sisters are the sort of drooping, too perfect girls in which Dickens specialises, and Alfred is the male equivalent. The mystery is, why has Marion gone? Has she run off with another man? Or is there some deeply moral and self-sacrificing reason behind her strange actions? Go on, guess!

Fortunately, there are several characters who are much more fun. The maid, Clemency, and her husband-to-be provide most of the humour and warmth that the central story lacks. The girls’ father, believes all human life is farce, though the events of the story will make him a wiser man (but less happy, which seems a pity). There are a couple of enjoyably quirky lawyers and their wives, who add considerably to the entertainment value. And there’s a mysterious man who’s considerably more attractive than the insipid Alfred.

Why is it called The Battle of Life? Why all the battlefield and buried corpse references, some of which are quite revolting? No idea! Possibly just so Dickens could make a point about war being a Bad Thing. But I really couldn’t see the relevance of this to the actual story. Oh well, not to worry – I enjoyed it anyway, and of course it has a happy ending!

The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain tells of Mr Redlaw, a man who dwells so much on the sorrows and slights of his past that he is unable to find pleasure in the present. Until the ghost offers him a bargain – that Mr Redlaw’s memories of all events from his past which have painful associations are stripped from his mind. But the ghost goes further – everyone whom Mr Redlaw meets will suffer the same fate…

Hurrah! A Christmas theme! It starts with Mr Swidger, the old caretaker of the college, and his family hanging holly as they do every year at Christmas-time, and culminates with a grand feast on Christmas Day. It has a strong message most suitable for the Christmas season: that it is our sorrows in life which humanise us and make us able to empathise with the troubles of others. And it has an equally powerful social message – that children abandoned to a life of poverty without love or hope cannot grow up to be anything other than monstrous. The child in this is a fuller version of Ignorance in A Christmas Carol – a thing to be prevented, or feared.

This has a very similar message to A Christmas Carol, but doesn’t quite have the same kind of joyous sparkle – there is a lesson given and a lesson learned, but it’s all much darker somehow and the inevitable redemption doesn’t bring quite the same level of hopeful uplift to the spirits. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it very much, especially Dickens’ anger over society’s neglect of its poverty-ridden children. We really need another Dickens for today...

Have yourself the Dickens of a Christmas!

www.fictionfanblog.wordpress.com ...more
2

Apr 09, 2013

Christmas writings seem to often be drenched in nostalgia - even T.S. Eliot succumbed to it with The Cultivation of Christmas Trees. Dylan Thomas is another example. Dickens is no exception, with additional syrupy sentimentalism and overt Christian evangelism mixed with supernatural elements. Other famous Dickensian themes are also present; urban poverty and social injustice.

I found much of the book forgettable, the exceptions being the two longer stories, A Christmas Carol and The Haunted Man. Christmas writings seem to often be drenched in nostalgia - even T.S. Eliot succumbed to it with The Cultivation of Christmas Trees. Dylan Thomas is another example. Dickens is no exception, with additional syrupy sentimentalism and overt Christian evangelism mixed with supernatural elements. Other famous Dickensian themes are also present; urban poverty and social injustice.

I found much of the book forgettable, the exceptions being the two longer stories, A Christmas Carol and The Haunted Man. The former had little impact, bled of all power by exposure to countless pop culture re-tellings. The latter made more of an impression - not only unfamiliar but showing some skill at atmosphere in the supernatural parts, which I could have wished for more of. The moral that our sorrows, troubles and wrongs are what make us empathetic and compassionate is as heavy handed as the tone of the much more famous tale of Scrooge.

So, dear readers, my limited experiences with Dickens have not been very positive: Hard Times as a teenager was a disaster. This was mostly meh. I want to give him one last chance, though, and I enlist your help: what is the ONE novel likely to convert me into a Dickens fan? Suggestions in the comments, please! ...more
4

Dec 13, 2017

I absolutely loved the different themes Dickens talked about in his Christmas writings. It did feel a bit repetitive at times, as it was made of stories set at Christmas with similar themes and I did enjoy some more than others (my detailed ratings will come tomorrow), but I loved A Christmas Carol so much that it outshined the rest. A perfect read to be in a festive mood at the end of the year!
4

Aug 15, 2007

It, like Oliver Twist, is a minor Dickens work in scope, but its truths are momentous truths & its aesthetic sensibilities remain breathtaking and ahead of their time. The quintessential perennial novel and for very good reason.
4

Dec 17, 2019

This my first reading of this book, of course the story of A Christmas Carol is not new to me, I have seen many versions of this on the TV. The original does not disappoint, it is a brilliant little story that plays out just like I know, the animated version with Jim Carey is, in my opinion, the one that captures the book best. Scrooge is a great character and reading as he realises that Christmas is all about blowing all his dosh on the biggest bird possible was fun to read.

As for the other This my first reading of this book, of course the story of A Christmas Carol is not new to me, I have seen many versions of this on the TV. The original does not disappoint, it is a brilliant little story that plays out just like I know, the animated version with Jim Carey is, in my opinion, the one that captures the book best. Scrooge is a great character and reading as he realises that Christmas is all about blowing all his dosh on the biggest bird possible was fun to read.

As for the other stories, you can see a few of them were almost first attempts of Dickens creating the main story. The Haunted man is the second big story in the book and the weakest in the whole collection, I thought it was dull and failed to grab my attention enough to figure out what the hell was going on. My favourite of the shorter stories was "A Christmas Tree" Dickens spots a Christmas tree and all it's decorations and gets transported back to his childhood and the fun he had playing with his toys, very touching stuff.

This is another of the Penguin Clothbound classics that I own and again it is lovely. It feels amazing in your hands as you read, nice thick pages and a top notch cover.

Blog review is here: https://felcherman.wordpress.com/2019... ...more
5

Dec 14, 2018

I borrowed this for 'A Christmas Carol' and the rating is for that story only.

Confession time--if I had ever read 'A Christmas Carol' before, it would have been as a pre-teen and we will not get into how may years ago that was. And even at that age I was already familiar with the story from seeing movie versions on television.

However, the written story still managed to surprise me in several ways, so I am glad I finally got around to reading it. It is always good to go back to the source. And it I borrowed this for 'A Christmas Carol' and the rating is for that story only.

Confession time--if I had ever read 'A Christmas Carol' before, it would have been as a pre-teen and we will not get into how may years ago that was. And even at that age I was already familiar with the story from seeing movie versions on television.

However, the written story still managed to surprise me in several ways, so I am glad I finally got around to reading it. It is always good to go back to the source. And it is fascinating to consider how well the story has thrived across the years.

...more

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