A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens: Review & Recommend | CLASSICS CATCHUPS

“Marley was dead: to begin with”.

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

I’m reviewing A Christmas Carol: to begin with. Which is to say, welcome to my first book review of 2020! I’m keeping the Christmas spirit alive just a tiny bit longer, with a review of Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol. I’ve seen some of the adaptations that have been made over the years, but this was my first time actually reading it.

The first Dickens I read was (I have previously received PR products from Penguin, who published my edition of this book) Great Expectations, which was super long, and not very accessible at all. A Christmas Carol is the exact opposite! It’s only about 100 pages, and it’s really easy to follow, which makes it a great introduction to Victorian Literature. It explores a lot of themes that are really prevalent in Victorian Literature, and offers great insight into London in the 1800s. Primarily, A Christmas Carol is an exploration of class, with other themes that include redemption, charity, family and Christmas.

Class in Victorian London is a theme Dickens explores in a lot of his works, and was a topic very close to his heart. In A Christmas Carol, we follow Ebeneezer Scrooge, a wealthy man who refuses all opportunities to offer charity or kindness. So, naturally, he hates Christmas. Dickens contrasts Scrooge with the Cratchit family, a poverty-stricken family. Bob Cratchit works for Scrooge, and his son, Tiny Tim, uses a walking stick and has his “limbs supported by an iron frame”. Scrooge has always pad Bob pittance, and refuses to offer him any support, even at Christmas. Scrooge and Cratchit’s relationship is a great representation of the power the wealthy in Victorian England held over the poor, and Scrooge also does an excellent job of demonstrating the disgust the wealthy felt towards the poor.

“If they would rather die, . . . they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

Ebeneezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

Another thing that I particularly enjoyed about A Christmas Carol was Scrooge’s character arc. At the start, of course, he’s a grumpy old miser. Then, during the course of the book, he receives visits from four ghosts: the first, his old business partner, Marley, and then the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. The visits from the ghosts show Scrooge the past he turned away from, the suffering outside his doorstep, and the legacy he will leave behind. While Scrooge never becomes likable (in my opinion at least — he’s still a rich landlord after all), he has a massive change of heart, and starts to appreciate the value of charity, family, and kindness.

The idea is so amazing that over the years lots of different adaptations have been made, but the biggest difference I noticed between the adaptations I’ve seen and the book is the tone. The films tend to put a lot more focus on the spirit of Christmas than the book does, with the book being more focused on the darker aspects Dickens explores, so don’t pick this up expecting to feel too festive, though the festive spirit definitely makes an appearance towards the end.

As one of the most famous writers of the Victorian era, it’s no surprise that Dickens’ writing is excellent. It’s a very different style to (I have previously received PR products from Penguin, who published my copy of this book) Great Expectations, but both are excellent. If you’ve read some of Dickens’ other work and felt like it was far too convoluted and dense, please give A Christmas Carol a go. Many of Dickens’ books were published in periodical magazines, which meant he got paid more the longer his books were, so he made them longer! A Christmas Carol wasn’t subject to quite the same publication method, and his writing style is very different as a result. As I said earlier, it’s really accessible, and a great introduction to Victorian Literature, which I think is a really under-appreciated period!

The atmosphere this book creates is just incredible. You really get the sense of the wealth divide, but even Scrooge’s ‘wealth’ seems relatively plain. Scrooge definitely comes across as a wealth hoarder rather than someone who likes to show off their wealth through flashy material possessions, and I got the impression that his home was as sparse and unwelcoming as his personality. On the contrary, the Cratchit’s home felt quite crowded and cozy, with a lovely family atmosphere, despite their lack of wealth. The atmosphere does a great job of conveying the status of the two families as well as their personalities.

As you can probably guess, this is definitely a book I’d recommend! While it is more of a festive read, I do think you could read it any time of year because, like I said, the Christmas spirit is definitely played up in the movies. If you’re new to Victorian Literature or Dickens, it’s a great introduction, and it’s a quick and easy classic to cross of your list if you’re looking to read more classics in 2021!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this review. If you enjoyed it, have a look at some of the other Classics I’ve reviewed through my new Book Review Bank! The Book Review Bank is a new page I’m really excited about, so I would love it if you took a look and checked out any of my other reviews you’re interested in. They’re all on the page twice, sorted by author’s name and genre to make it super easy for you to find what you’re looking for! If you have any feedback on it, please drop me a message, and if you’ve read A Christmas Carol, let me know what you thought of it in the comments!

Stay safe & happy reading,

Ellie

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