I am aware that it is not the time of year to be reviewing a Christmas book. It’s not even Christmas in July! But I was looking over something on The Starving Artist and it reminded me of how I took my own recommendation and read A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, this past holiday season. And then it occurred to me that I never reviewed it and that I didn’t even slot it on the list of to-be-reviewed. And I was like, hey! That’s not fair! I read it, I should get credit.
It was one of those things that I did off-handedly, probably in the middle of reading another book, which might be why it got dropped inadvertently from the reviews. A Christmas Carol is short, a quick read. It really is meant to be snuggled up with as Christmas approaches, or read aloud to your children or grandchildren. It has translated well to theater and the screen, as well, so not so many people read the (original) book anymore. It has also become a part of our culture, a part of many of our Christmas traditions and even the language and observation of Christmas.
Do I need to tell you what it is about? Just in case: Ebenezer Scrooge is a tight-fisted, tight-hearted older man in Victorian England. He has an employee, a light-hearted, kind man named Bob Cratchit, who Scrooge treats with both economic and emotional miserliness. Bob has a lovely family and a son who walks with a crutch and is small and weak. There is also Ebenezer’s nephew, who plays a part in the unfolding of the story. At any rate, Ebenezer goes home on Christmas Eve—bah-humbugging all the way—to his dark, dank existence, and goes to bed, only to be visited by a succession of ghostly apparitions. (An old business partner, and of course the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.) The things Ebenezer sees and learns, from his own childhood and lost love to deaths that wait right around the corner, become successively more disturbing, leaving him with an opportunity to change or to accept the fates of those around him, as well as his own. A Christmas Carol was first published in 1843. Charles Dickens is one of the most well-known writers in the English language and his books include Nicholas Nickleby, The Pickwick Papers, Bleak House, David Copperfield, Hard Times, Great Expectations, and Oliver Twist.
It is a good book. Dickens is a great writer, and this is the shortest of his popular works. A classic. In fact, now that I think about it, I believe I grabbed this book from the shelf after Eamon and I went to a youth, community theater production of it. (Is that what happened? Life before Covid-19 seems so far away, now, like a dream. I can’t remember.) And I can’t think of much else to say. Not my favorite book of all time, but just completely solid. You’re going to know what’s coming, because we’ve all heard the story about a million times, so the novelty of the moral is lost on us. (And it most definitely is a morality tale.) But it’s well-crafted literature, from the story to the characters, from the language to the setting. Good stuff. Well, maybe I’ll say this: one of the brilliant things about this story was to combine Christmastime with a ghost story. It’s so seamless, you hardly notice it, but people who like to be creeped out get a holiday bonus with this one.
There are lots and lots of adaptations, from Mr. Magoo to The Flintstones. I’ll stick to some highlights.
Scrooged. My favorite of the movies. Sends the story forward into more recent times, but keeps the spirit (ha ha) of the thing alive. Bill Murray makes a great Scrooge and the production is well done, if it is getting outdated, by now. This one isn’t meant for kids, either, as so many of the renditions are.
The Muppet Christmas Carol. The Muppets are, in a lot of ways, their own thing, their own genre. I happen to enjoy a good Muppet movie, and this is a fine one. Fairly accurate to the original, even though told by puppets of frogs, bears, etc.
Mickey’s A Christmas Carol. A classic version, this one can be viewed in 25 minutes between Rudolph and Frosty. A decent re-telling for children, and will work especially if they like Mickey Mouse.
I would still like to check out (or re-watch, as it were) these movies: The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017), A Christmas Carol (Robert Zemekis, 2009), A Christmas Carol (FX, 2019), A Christmas Carol (Patrick Stewart, 1999), A Christmas Carol (George C. Scott, 1984), A Christmas Carol (animated, 1971), and A Christmas Carol (Alastair Sim, 1951). Maybe this December I’ll have an A Christmas Carol marathon. I do love a good Christmas movie, at the right time of year.