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===What the Dickens?===
I have had a pile of books up to my knee for about the last year while I worked my way through a rather large set of books that I couldn't put down. As I have finished the large set of books recently I've finally managed to crack into my pile, starting with the ones that I thought would be a quick read first of all so I could make a dent in the pile for neatness sake. One such book I have recently gotten round to reading (finally) was Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
So, yes, it's a bit of an "out-of-season" time of year to be reading a book about Christmas, but what the hay. Every other book doesn't come with a set time of year that you "have to" read them at. In fact many books span many seasons. Why then did this book cause so many people to look at me like I was a total nutcase for reading it in April? I really don't know. Well... I have my suspicions that they all thought I was one of those weird people who are 100% Christmas 100% of the time. My first point being, if you are reading this any time other than December you may have to be prepared to put up with the funny looks and comments from those around you.
The version I went for was printed by Collins Classics. This version starts off with a little bit about Dickens and a little bit about the themes of the story. I thought this was fantastic as not everyone will know much about Dickens and this tells you some great background knowledge before you start reading if you are interested. Also included in this version is (at the back) is an A-Z of words and phrases that may not be familiar or have since fallen out of use. Strangely I think this is a generic list they use for most Dickens stories they publish as I noticed quite a few words and phrases in there that had nothing to do with A Christmas Carol. This also meant that on the rare words or colloquialisms of the time that I didn't quite understand, there wasn't always a reference to it at the back. This didn't cause too much of an issue, however, as mostly the book was simple to understand.
I got this book for free since I picked it up at that magical time of year: Christmas. My lovely friend bought it for me since it has been sitting on my wish-list for a long while. You can pick this up on Amazon for very cheap. In fact, if you go for a used version you can get it as cheap as a penny depending on the postage you want to pay for it. If you have a kindle then you can download the story for free though I couldn't say how easy it would be to flick back and forth to the reference material at the back on the kindle.
===The story we all know===
Most people will probably already know the full story of A Christmas Carol. A grouchy old man (The infamous money lender Ebenezer Scrooge) who has absolutely no kindness and joy left in him is on a quick path to a woeful afterlife. The story begins on the evening of his redemption, when the ghost of his old business partner comes back to warn him of his wicked ways. Scrooge will be visited by three ghosts who will take him on a journey to redeem his soul. The first Ghost shows him visions of his past, reminding him of the family and friends he used to have, the second ghost shows him the family and friends he could have in the present, and finally the last ghost takes him to the future and shows him the outcomes of his current way of life.
===The story we don't===
Now, I went into this book having seen several film adaptations over the years. Scrooge with Albert Finney and The Muppets Christmas Carol are regular Christmastime viewing in my household. So imagine my surprise when I realised there was stuff in the book that wasn't explored by these adaptations. Given how short the book is, they really didn't need to miss anything out and yet the book still holds a few moments that were entirely new to me. For example, who knew that Scrooge was on a boat at any point in The Christmas Carol?? I might have been the only one who didn't know that, but I was fascinated by the little things that have been missed out by more than a few versions.
It was also quite interesting to read having seen more than just those adaptations. There are a few lines that are picked up by almost all of the adaptations I've seen and it was great fun coming across those snippets within the story. It was also interesting to see that some of the lines that I had grown so fond of were either not there at all (one in particular was in at least two adaptations that simply didn't exist in the prose) or that had been misquoted. I'm a total geek so I really loved this aspect of reading the original story.
===He got the style===
The style the story is written in makes it a very comfortable read indeed. Dickens is simply telling you a story. He is the narrator and he speaks directly to the audience/ reader on more than a few occasions. He manages to neatly evoke his spirit in simple phrases such as when he tells you he, himself is at your elbow as you read. At other times, however, he chooses not to be neat and instead to ramble on. In fact the story begins with about two pages of reminding you that Marley (Scrooges partner) is dead to begin with. I am told that his tendency to ramble indicated the weeks when Mr Dickens was short on money since his stories were published in newspapers and he was paid per word. If that is true or not I don't know but his ramblings do tend to pop up in the most bizarre places about the strangest things.
===Ooky and Spooky===
Obviously there are elements of the story that are incredibly dark anyway. Four ghosts haunting you all night isn't the lightest material. I would definitely say that the story Dickens tells is quite an eerie one before it becomes the sweet and touching story of redemption near the end. To be honest I wasn't expecting the spirits to be that different from the films but the descriptions really bring them to life in a way that films simply couldn't. Dickens gives them so much presence with his words and ideas which are truly unique. They are much more than just ghosts. They are also a little bit more mean spirited towards Scrooge than I've ever seen them portrayed in the films, which was fantastic.
Would I recommend it? Without a doubt, yes. The original always tends to be the best and this really is no different. Dickens does a fantastic job and it's easy to see why this story has stood the test of time and still strikes a chord with people all over the world today. The Collins version has the additional joy of coming with the helpful A-Z at the back which may help if you are struggling with any of the words or phrases used. Five out of Five for this atmospheric and brilliant classic.