Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

Summary: This novella by English author Charles Dickens was first published by Chapman & Hall on 19 December 1843. The story tells of sour and stingy Ebenezer Scrooge's ideological, ethical, and emotional transformation after the supernatural visitations of Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come. The novella met with instant success and critical acclaim. 

The tale has been viewed as an indictment of nineteenth century industrial capitalism and was adapted several times to the stage, and has been credited with restoring the holiday to one of merriment and festivity in Britain and America after a period of sobriety and sombreness. A Christmas Carol remains popular, has never been out of print, and has been adapted to film, opera, and other media.  (image from virgin media and summary from Wikipedia)

My Review:  Not only is this A Christmas Carol, it is THE Christmas Carol...a story that most Americans have seen in multiple movie recreations or plays and one referred to at Christmas time as often as any bible story or tale of reindeer.  But, have you read it?  I hadn't until it was the book club pick for December.  If you haven't read it, forget about picking up this year's NYT bestselling holiday tearjerker - get this instead.

At 100 pages this book is easily adapted into a movie.  The script is generally taken directly from Dicken's words and you will probably find no surprise plot twists.  It is simply the act of reading that gives this story a greater depth.  In fact, because the visual "imagination" of reading it is unnecessary (I pictured a cross between Mickey's Christmas Carol and Muppet's Christmas Carol...judge me as you may) as I read my mind wandered instead to the whys of the story.  Why did Dickens include certain details?  Why did the ghost of Christmas Present phrase it that way?  And of course the most interesting question of does this apply to me?

The book club discussion was an excellent way to start to the holiday season.  Our discussion focused less on the caricature of hard hearted Scrooge and more on the reasons that young Scrooge turned away from life and towards money.  You see, not many of us are extremely wealthy and frugal business men.  If we are wealthy we spend the money, mostly on ourselves and family, and if we are poor...well, we may be frugal, or we may just be envious and equally self-serving.  And so we talked about how to avoid becoming obsessed with money and about how incredibly blessed we are to live in our luxurious 1st world homes (I say this with no sense of irony as I sit in my 850 sf condo after two years of my husband being partially employed).  We talked about how giving a gift gives you more dopamine than getting a gift.  We talked about wealth as a curse...or not.  We discussed the merits of Santa verses parents as the prime gift giver.  We talked about a lot more questions.  All of this, from 100 pages; from a story I've heard at least thirty times in my life.

This is a story you should READ once in your life...if not every year.  And then discuss it. 

Merry Christmas.

My rating: 5 Stars

Sum it up:  Discuss it over the Thanksgiving table next year in order to influence your gift giving and general Christmasy attitude in 2011.

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