Book Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Nothing makes me smile more than this book.

…it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.

A Christmas Carol is a classic for a reason. If, somehow, you don’t know the story, it’s straightforward: Scrooge, a miserable old miser who hates Christmas, is visited by three ghosts who teach him the meaning of it. It’s the perfect Christmas story: heartwarming, uplifting, and so atmospheric and transporting that I swear I’ve been swept away to Victorian London. The writing not only holds up, but is still excellent, and Scrooge’s tale is just as relevant now as it was in 1843.

Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.
Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a doornail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffinnail as the deadest piece of iron-mongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for.

Dickens’ writing is stellar. Personally, I frequently find that older novels have very dull, dry narration and, no matter how good the story is, I’m put to sleep. That is not an issue with this book. It’s narrated in first person, with the narrator frequently sharing his own views and talking directly to the reader, and his voice has so much personality. I think it’s that element that keeps the writing feeling fresh and enjoyable, even now. Just, overall, A Christmas Carol is one of the most readable classics, partially because of how short it is, but mostly because of the narration. *chef kiss*

The story also feels surprisingly timely. Don’t believe me? I give you this quote:

“There are some upon this earth of yours,” returned the Spirit, “who claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us, and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived…”

Dickens knows what Christmas is. It’s about compassion and charity and he never strays from that central truth. He’s excellent at balancing some of the more serious scenes with the joyous Christmas spirit of the book. The final scenes with the Ghost of Christmas Present are especially hard-hitting.

This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware of them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow, I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.

But, at the end of the day, my favourite thing about this book isn’t how occasionally it points out some of our flaws, but the way it celebrates the human potential for kindness and redemption, something we forget about all too often when telling stories about bad people, and which has been at the heart of Christmas for as long as Christmas has existed. It’s a reminder to help those who are less fortunate than us and of what each and every one of us can do for our fellow humans.

God bless us, each and every one.

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