Tuesday, 21 December 2010

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

The snow was coating the ground like icing sugar falling to lie gently on a victoria sandwich. The temperature was below zero and underneath the snow lay a steely layer of black ice.

Could be the opening line of a Dickens book couldn't it? But no it was the weather conditions before our book club meeting and I was receiving cancellations faster than an airport at Christmas. 4 in less than an hour no less. Hmmm not a good start.

Nevertheless like a snow shovel those of us who did brave the arctic conditions ploughed on regardless (and it was arctic, I even had to wear my woolly hat to the pub)

I think I was most surprised at the length on this book. I read the childrens version as a child which was relatively short even including the beautiful illustrations. Being a 'proper' Dickens I expected the book to be lengthy but it wasn't and it was also not too far removed from book I read as a child.

The language was really easy to understand (yes for all those smart arses out there it is in English however I meant despite the occasional 'thou hast' the modern day reader can easily read it without needing a dictionary). One of our members hadn't read Dickens before and she commented how easy it was to get into which is something you don't expect. The book was also wonderfully descriptive. I confess, sometimes I do skip the descriptive sections of a book to pick up the story but not this time. I don't know if it's because I knew the story so there wasn't that suspense with wanting to know what happens next but I almost lingered over the descriptive words wanting to absorb the atmosphere. As with all Dickens books the names of his characters were excellent. I mean how perfect is the name Scrooge for a miserly old man devoid of happiness???

Although the book was written in 1843 and is set in the Victorian period we were surprised how well the story fits today and by how many of the expressions are still used, bah humbug anyone?

I commented on the fact that A Christmas Carol (by the way where is the Carol?) is by all means a ghost story. Ghosts and Christmas are not two things you automatically put together yet it works so well. It's totally different to all other Christmas stories out there yet still conveys the traditional message of caring/sharing and goodwill.

When asked when do you remember first coming across A Christmas Carol? we all answered the same - we always remember it being around. The members of our book club vary in age slightly yet all of us stated that the book in some shape or form was part of our childhoods particularly our Christmas childhoods. I think I speak for all when I say it's as much as a part of our childhoods as the Queens Speech, mince pies and some bloke with a beard shouting 'It's Christmas' at the top of his lungs.

It seems wrong to mention when reviewing a Dickens book but the conversation kept reverting to The Muppets Christmas Carol. The book has been made into a number of films over the years yet this is the one that I grew up with and again like with the childrens book it is remarkably close to the original story. I agree on the face of it Miss Piggy as Mrs Cratchit shouldn't work but it just does and is one of the Christmas films I look out for every year. As I said previously A Christmas Carol in some shape or form is part of everyones Christmas including mine.

We gave this book a festive 10/10 meaning that if we read it in August we probably would have marked it lower but as it's December and the feeling of goodwill is upon us it scored the big 10.

P.S.Ffor a more traditional in depth study into A Christmas Carol check out the wiki page which is worth a read.

Next book is The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.

I will give the last word to Dickens - Merry Christmas each and everyone!