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A Christmas Carol (1999)

A Christmas Carol (1999)
3.99 of 5 Votes: 3
1561797464 (ISBN13: 9781561797462)
bethany house publishers
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A Christmas Carol (1999)
A Christmas Carol (1999)

About book: "Bah! Humbug!" Who does not recognise this expostulation, and the old curmudgeon who spat it out. The very name "Scrooge" has entered the vernacular to indicate a mean-spirited skinflint. "Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge, a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint." And even the phrase "Merry Christmas" only became popular following the appearance of this novella.A Christmas Carol is one of Dickens' most enduring and well-loved tales. He wrote it in six weeks, and it was originally published in the Christmas of 1843. It evokes perfectly the sensations of a Victorian Christmas, but its lasting appeal lies in its power to speak to us today, 170 years later. In fact it has never been out of print. Starting with this tale, Dickens wrote longish themed stories annually and the five were subsequently published together as "Christmas Books". He also of course wrote many more shorter Christmas stories.Dickens loved to paint a picture. Everything in this story is heightened; the descriptions are so vivid that in places they are almost surreal, and inanimate objects take on a life - and personality - of their own. A church bell is "always peeping slyly down at Scrooge…[it] struck the hours and quarters in the clouds, with tremulous vibrations afterwards as if its teeth were chattering in its frozen head up there." There is water with "its overflowings sullenly congealed, and turned to misanthropic ice," Scrooge's chambers are "a gloomy suite of rooms, in a lowering pile of buildings up a yard, where it had so little business to be, that one could scarcely help fancying it must have run there when it was a young house, playing at hide-and-seek with other houses, and forgotten the way out again." I cannot remember ever feeling sorry for a house before, but that for me at any rate is "the Dickens effect". Even today when we think of Christmas we may think of a Dickensian Christmas; he seems to have invented the archetypal Christmas, alongside Prince Albert and his Christmas tree. How has an author managed to do this? To have had such a massive influence on how we celebrate Christmas? And with a secular tale at that, which speaks to people both in and outside the religion which traditionally celebrates this particular festival?Well everything in Dickens is larger than life. Everything in this tale, at least, has to be the best or the worst. The "wonderful" pudding indicates that the food is the tastiest there has ever been. The carols are sung more enthusiastically and more in tune than they ever could be, the ice on the pond is thicker than ever before, and glinting more spectacularly in the sun, the shops are filled to bursting with good things to tempt and delight the shoppers. This exaggeration bursts through our gloom at the perfect time of year. When in Great Britain in reality we have have cold dreary weather and long dark nights, we also have in imagination Dickens' heightened perception to uplift us. No wonder then that it stays in our memory and in the memories of generation after generation. And no wonder there have been - and continue to be - such a plethora of adaptations of this wonderful tale world-wide. The original illustrations by John Leech complement Dickens' story to perfection, but there have been many subsequent dramatisations, readings, retellings, films, musicals, cartoons - some more faithful than others, but all paying homage to and honouring this original story - or at the very least its concept.The writing has a very light touch and Dickens' trademark humour is present on every page. Yet to hammer the moral point of the book home, we are assured of its veracity. The opening lines, "Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that," carry the reader through the story, daring us to disbelieve in the events which follow, and the ghastly phantoms which are about to appear. The author's voice is there at every turn. One part which gave this reader a bit of a jolt, is the arrival of the first Spirit when the curtains of Scrooge's bed were drawn aside. He was thus face to face with the apparition, "as close to it," Dickens says, "as I am now to you, and I am standing in the spirit at your elbow." Phew!Dickens' preoccupations are evident in this tale. It is in part an indictment of 19th century industrial capitalism, and part a nostalgic wish to return to earlier times and traditions of merriment and festivity, just as ironically today we wish to return to our perceptions of a "Dickensian Christmas". There are also the recurring themes of Dickens' sympathy for the poor, his social conscience and his ever-present memories of the humiliating experiences of his childhood.The novella has a simple structure. There are 5 "staves". The first introduces Scrooge himself in all his miserliness. This character is one of Dickens' masterpieces. He is so mean that his clerk has to warm his hands by the one candle Scrooge allows him. And indeed he allows himself little better,"Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it." Scrooge begrudges even the one day's holiday a year which his clerk takes, grumbling that it is, "A poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December!" The chill of the season seems to emanate from Scrooge himself. "External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty."Yet he is such an overblown character that we find him funny. We delight in his ridiculous meanness, and the way he has impoverished his own life by such strictures. And after our very first contact with this tale, we delight in our expectations of what is going to happen to this sorry character.The next three staves introduce the three "spirits" - of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come. And the final stave, which I defy you to read without a big fat smile on your face, describes Scrooge's redemption, which is all the more marvellous and outrageous because of his earlier spite and vituperation.Oh, it is a wonderful book! A simple morality tale but a moving tale which makes the reader chuckle and shudder by turns. Thank you, Mr Dickens. I would like to shake you heartily by the hand. Thank you for giving me my favourite story. For creating such living breathing characters as Ebenezer Scrooge, the Fezziwig family, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, and the personifications of Jacob Marley's ghost, the Three Spirits, Want and Ignorance. And thank you most for making millions of people world-wide smile too, and maybe reflect and think a little. "I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach."

The gremlin got wet from all my mentions of dick(en)s and now he's ferocious! Now is as good a time as any to review Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. Before he holds a red eye dinner party for his red-eye friends and they eat me for dinner...The idea was amazing. Ghosts of past, present and future? I love it. He could've time traveled and written this baby for me. Regret, cold-heartedness, chains of the past, fear... Side track, I like the '80s ya novel The Agony of Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. It captured those memories very well. Alice will really agonize over any embarrassing mistake she ever made. I used to torture myself over things that no one else even knew about. "If for that one thing I'm the biggest idiot who ever lived. I'm bound for hell." If a ghost of any time ever comes to take me for a magical mystery tour I'll probably turn tail and run (unless it's Beatles. I'll come back to all men who brag about watching the Ed Sullivan show when it first played on tv that *I* was a regular at the Cavern). Anyway, I liked that book because she just learns the simple old lesson that nothing is forever. I find that comforting. I didn't like the big old grand gesture. What did Bill Cosby say about his kids getting a nicer version of his mom because they got "an old lady looking to get into heaven"? It's that. Live how you wanna live. If it is really killing you to be alone, yeah you could learn to be less of an abrasive asshole. But you don't have to give your entire self either. At least, that's not what I want to hear...Life affirming? No. Restorative to my faith in humanity? Nope. Just a good idea that could have been AWESOME.I've got this quote on my gr profile even though it actually bugs me a bit:"There are 500 reasons I write for children.... Children read books, not reviews. They don't give a hoot about the critics.... They don't read to free themselves of guilt, to quench their thirst for rebellion, or to get rid of alienation. They still believe in God, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins, logic, clarity, punctuation, and other such obsolete stuff.... They don't expect their beloved writer to redeem humanity. Young as they are, they know that it is not in his power. Only the adults have such childish illusions." - Isaac Bashevis SingerNoooooo kids aren't gonna read my goodreads reviews?! Whoops, not that part. Don't do things to relieve guilt. But not to get rid of alienation?! If this is a standard to judge childishness by than yes I am a child. It's called getting to know other people. It's not because of what will happen to YOU if you don't. That bugs me about 'Carol'. The old lady looking to get into heaven, indeed. I don't care about redeeming humanity. That's not ever gonna happen. I don't wanna feel like I wasted time talking to someone who didn't get it or give a shit. Is that so childish? (Singer is one of my faves though. No matter what he says. The Family Moskat appeared to me twice during the loneliest times of my life. It'd be there sitting on a book fair table. I already had it and all, but it was like "I'm here for ya, Mar!" all the same.)Fuck!!! I was gonna write this review using entirely unused words from the English dictionary. Y'know, to sound made up like Dickens. Consider that a spoiler for future Dickensian reviews... (That sounds almost dystopian, the idea of another Dickens review by me. It sounds... Dickensian.)
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Renato Magalhães Rocha
One should never judge a book by its cover, but this edition surely deserves an award for ugliest and laziest book cover ever made (should we start a contest?), which is a shame since a theme like Christmas is quite easy to illustrate and has a lot of recognizable symbols and its own emblems that could've been used to enhance this poorly conceived design. However, if all the budget available went to the translator, it was a good decision as it was beautifully done and, in the end, it's all that really matters.It's curious how I managed to completely ignore this story: never read the book, never saw any film adaptation, neither went to watch a play in the theater or an opera or even a television special for kids. It simply wasn't a big deal here in Brazil and my family hasn't been too fond of Christmas so I never looked for the theme - how Scrooge of us! Those of you who love Christmas by now are probably feeling sad for me, but I can be optimistic and see it through a good perspective: I approached A Christmas Carol innocently, as one might put it, and enjoyed this magical experience once and for all, while being able to extract some lessons I probably would have passed by without noticing or looking back as a child.Although Charles Dickens wrote here a nice but simple story of redemption, at first glance one might not capture some of the deeper self-analysis it might awake in more attentive readers - or simply in those who are in need of such a message as time and life itself seem to toughen our feelings and our reaction's to people's actions. While I would consider myself nothing alike Scrooge, I guess I am to blame for overlooking the basics of life, and that is something that I love about reading and one of its many beneficial sides: being able to absorb lessons, even on matters that we seemingly can't relate to and that seem so simple but have great effects upon ourselves. Isn't happiness completely based on simplicity? More and more - as I live and read - I tend to think it seems to be, otherwise why would we be so emotional revisiting simpler, uncomplicated times?One story to illustrate my point is how I travel to my parent's town every year for Christmas. It's a 12 hours trip in a suffocating and uncomfortable bus - there are no other transportation options - that I dread to make, arriving there and welcoming ungratefully my mother's dear smile and warm embrace with my monosyllabic answers and my grumpy face because of how exhausting the trip is. Now, reading A Christmas Carol was in no way life-changing - although there could be a point in assuming that life-changing experiences need not to be grand ones, like epiphanies, as simple changes ('simple' seems to be what I got from this reading) still can be beneficial and make a big difference -, but I did take a pledge to myself that I would approach my tiresome travel with better winds.What would you know? Just for focusing on what I would get from this trip - to spend quality time with my family, my dog, extended family, the airs of my hometown - instead of the dislocation part of it already made it a nicer time. I wish we would learn things rapidly but unfortunately I can't promise to myself that it will always go as smoothly as it was this time, for the person I am now will no longer exist and will consist of added experiences and newer feelings, but I guess it was a nice start to change something that bothered me for over ten years. Perhaps all I need is to make reading of Dickens's tale a Christmas tradition of my own and turn this time into a period of self analysis.It's been repeated time and again how you don't know what you've got till it's gone. Had we the opportunity, the privilege, to look into the future and learn that the things we normally take for granted now will by then be gone, perhaps we would value them better. This is what Dickens proposed to his old Scrooge, through my own words: you don't appreciate your life, your things, your acquaintances? Well, this is the alternative, the result you'll have once things are all done and gone. Does it seem a better situation to you in any way?Although such a device of looking into the future and far back into the past doesn't exist, Dickens gave us the inspiration to look upon our actions - past, present and planned - and reevaluate how we want the outcome to be. In a way, literature can help you travel through time.Rating: for this nice, full of hope story that aims to show how everything is still inside of us and how we must simply learn how to look for it, teaching us that all it takes is a deep dive within oneself to collect the needed goods, where as deeper one goes, the further in time one will be - kind of like the farthest light in the observable universe we see from a telescope represents the past -, among the most precious memories and feelings, in places we should revisit more often: 4 stars.
Nandakishore Varma
Heart-warming: that is my one word review for this book.This has to be one of the most read and loved stories of all time. It works, whether one views it as a Christian allegory or a simple fantasy. I studied it in middle school and loved it: I was laughing along with Scrooge in the last chapter. I was wondering whether the magic would still work with a moderately cynical middle-aged man. It did.The story could have been maudlin, sentimental, didactic and moralising. That it is none of this is due to Dickens' mastery of the medium. From the beginning to end, there is hardly a word out of place: and the narrative is structured so meticulously that one simply floats through the story, along with Scrooge and the ghosts.Take the first paragraph:Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.This sets the whole tone of the novel. The conversational style with its mock serious tone of voice; Dickens is sitting near to you, with a tankard of ale in front of him, on a cold December day in the neighbourhood pub. He is entertaining you with a Christmas tale. It is not to be taken very seriously, but the teller's heart is in it-if you listen to it carefully, it may work wonders for you.The handful of characters are finely etched: true to its fairytale nature, the "good" and "bad" are strongly bifurcated without any shades of grey, yet we find ourselves loving even the bad characters. Scrooge, for all his miserly and cantankerous nature, can never be taken seriously: his "bah!" and "humbug!", we feel, are most applicable to the persona he presents to the world. And as we visit the lonely boy in the classroom, we get an idea how Scrooge turned out to be the man he is: the colossal insecurity of the impoverished child, developing into the worship of money for its own sake, and building a barrier of hatred against society so that it can never hurt him.Like a five-act play, time and space are compressed into an evening, night and the next day. As we sweep through the narrative at breakneck speed, Scrooge's character undergoes a tremendous transformation which is possible only in fables and fairy tales: however, the author has already set the stage for it in the opening chapter itself by showing us the chinks in his armour. The development of the miser of the first chapter into the loving philanthropist of the last chapter seems not only possible, but natural.A perfect Christmas fable for everybody. Recommended for young and old alike.
*3.5 stars*I shall start by presenting you Ebenezer Scrooge, the – according to the narrator – cold-hearted, unholy and inconsiderate man we have as main character:While he is described as such: External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn't know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often came down handsomely, and Scrooge never did.A part of me was surprisingly not negatively thinking about the old man. Some despised him, but I couldn’t do such thing because he may have said hurtful things to people, but it’s not like he ruined someone’s life. He has some good in him, and I could see it from the start somehow. Now, I am not sure if this is all coming from me having viewed the movie and became attached to him and empathizing with everything he went through but, one thing I know is that I never ‘hated’ Scrooge.No fear though, if that is a character you do not appreciate at first. He does, as you surely know already, have a fantastic and noticeable character development! 'Spirit,' said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, 'tell me if Tiny Tim will live.' 'I see a vacant seat,' replied the Ghost,' in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.' 'No, no,' said Scrooge. 'Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared.'See, I was sure there was good in him…*wink* *wink*This may sound quite strange to you, maybe, but I didn’t find an even, adequate and well-fitting the story atmosphere in this book. Sure, the scenes were sad or merry or eerie but it’s like, in my point of view, the author neglected it and concentrated himself more on the writing – for it to be outstanding (and it was) – and the story itself, along with creating original characters we would not forget.And he succeeded. Tiny Tim – especially him –, Scrooge and Fred are people that will be carefully buried inside my mind and will rest there for as long as I will cherish them - forever.Also, since this is a short novel yet containing a described, simple, well-divided and easy to follow plot, we don’t see the secondary characters as often as we may wish for. For instance, Tiny Tim is my favorite of them all (I wasn’t able to resist him), but I could only read of him here and there, tiny bits of information. Which is a little disappointing but understandable. 'There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, dare say,' returned the nephew. 'Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that- 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 therefore, 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!’Oh, even though this surely isn’t the best Christmas book I have read so far, it is a classic and, truthfully, how many of them make us see the importance of being kind to others, open-minded, thoughtful and warm our heart for we could discover many incredible things and imagine our future transform into a better one? If you enjoyed this classic and the themes included, you may also find yourself appreciating the endearing story that is Little Women!
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