|Above: a representation of the giant hug I want to give this book.|
Wow. I knew this was a short read, but what a whirlwind Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol has been.
From the first page, I was swept up with pure love for Dickens, his writing and his tale. Almost straight away, he was treating me to simile-based giggles and fantastically witty, delightfully familiar lines. I was instantly hooked, devouring the whole thing in a little over three hours (with tea breaks, naturally).
It was like meeting a person you have heard about your whole life, and discovering that they are just as wonderful as everybody had told you they were. It was full of quotes that I already knew by heart, thanks to countless viewings of The Muppets Christmas Carol, and from reading picture book adaptations at the local library. It was a story I had loved, but until I immersed myself in the words of its true author, I had only been experiencing half of its magnificence.
The words floated around me like a delicate perfume, the style full of cheer and cheek. I was surprised by how remarkably chatty Dickens was in his narration, leaving me feeling like I was part of an enthralled audience at one of the live readings he became famous for in his later years. There were a few brilliant zingers ("There's more gravy than a grave about you!") and a few occasions where Ol' Charlie had a go at cracking on to some of his female characters (which was a little bit creepy, but I still chuckled).
While A Christmas Carol is mostly jolly in its tone, it also has its more sinister moments, a number of which don't quite make it into more modern adaptations. "Yeah, the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come is pretty scary, " I can hear you say, at which point I'll just laugh in your face and show you the scene with Ignorance and Want at the end of the Ghost of Christmas Present's haunting, followed by the bit where the ghost of Jacob Marley pulls off his freaking jaw. This ain't no Christmas Eve bedtime story for the kiddies, that's for sure. That said, despite the demonic children of Man and jaw-less spooks, the balance of light and dark is just right for this kind of redemption story.
Having finally taken on the challenge of reading the original tale, it's easy to see why A Christmas Carol has become such a staple of the Western Christmas experience. It is warm-hearted, cheeky, witty and a little bit scary, written by a man who knew exactly how to get mixture of emotions just right. It was everything I expected, and more.
There are a few more titles by Charles Dickens on my Penguins list, and now that I have consumed one, I can't wait to get stuck into whichever one comes next.