Before it’s too late… (Incidentally, before it’s too late to post this review!)
ISBN: N/A (Vintage’s is 978-0-099-52973-6
First Published: 1843
Date Reviewed: 15th December 2013
Please note that this novella is often published with the inclusion of other stories by Dickens. The edition I read was Vintage Classics, which includes The Chimes and The Haunted Man, but this review only deals with A Christmas Carol.
It’s Christmas Eve and, the same as every year, Mr Scrooge isn’t interested. Hating Christmas and preferring money to people, he declines his nephew’s invitation to Christmas dinner, tells his clerk he can have the day off but to be in earlier on Boxing Day, and leaves work to spend the evening on his own in his dingy suite. But his evening is far from quiet. He is visited by the ghost of his deceased business partner who tells him he will be visited by three spirits and that he has to change his ways before it is too late.
A Christmas Carol is a riveting story that far surpasses, as you might suppose, any of the film adaptations and abridged versions that have been created since.
As most people know the story it is probably best to comment on the book with this in mind and say that the writing itself is a real treat, the book is very funny, and there is the inclusion of the author himself in the story that is simply worth knowing about. This inclusion is mostly to show how Scrooge could change, though there is a particular statement which, in our present day, comes across as from the grave and thus rather spooky.
Unlike, for example, Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol is not jammed-packed full of words. The text flows beautifully and the pages pass quickly and easily. The story is not at all spoiled by prior knowledge of the work – if you like the story but do not read the book it must be said that you are missing out.
Although society in general isn’t a theme of the book, the modern reader can learn a lot about Dickens’ time. Whilst Scrooge’s tale may be somewhat escapist, you can read through the lines, read through Dickens’s descriptions, to find out a lot about life and, of course, Christmas.
A short story with a firm message, A Christmas Carol is an excellent novella. And the fact that it is from this story that the greeting ‘Merry Christmas’ entered general use makes it more than perfect to read this book during the holiday in which it is set.
December 20, 2013, 1:38 pm
I had no idea this made ‘Merry Christmas’ popular! Fascinating.
I really enjoyed this book, it’s been the only Dickens I’ve managed to complete.
December 22, 2013, 6:46 pm
I love A Christmas Carol! I still have a beautiful hardback copy that someone gave me for Christmas when I was a child and I like to re-read it every few years. I agree that it’s definitely worth reading the book even if you think you already know the story from the film adaptations.
December 31, 2013, 9:23 am
I read this for the first time over this Christmas holiday too! I loved it. As you said having seen previous adaptations of it didn’t ruin the original at all.
January 9, 2014, 10:46 am
Alice: I didn’t either – it was one of those chance finds. I decided to look up the Wikipedia article and found it there. I can understand that; I managed Great Expectations but I keep looking at the others and opting for something else. Good stories but too many words and so lengthy!
Helen: Yes, there’s just so much more to discover and I think it’s great that it’s a story, seasonal at that, that is just as good no matter how many times you’ve seen adaptations or heard about it. I imagine your book must be lovely :)
Jessica: Just saw your post… yesterday? Maybe Tuesday. I think, nowadays at least, of course, that is a big selling point. You can’t ruin the story with spoilers of any sort.