This is my new favorite Dickens. Actually, I didn't have a favorite Dickens before, but I should have; given all the Dickens we read in one of my book clubs in the last year or two, but frankly, I'm not much of a fan. I've always mostly liked "A Tale of Two Cities", but not enough to call it a favorite of anything. Well, now I have one. And I think it'll be an annual read.
I've seen a few movies of this, and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts show a couple times, but I realized I've never read this, so was very glad it was this book club's December pick.
During book club I started singing the song from the 1970 musical, which no one else knew, so had to post this
link on Facebook for the girls.
I think this, more than ... well, anything else of his I've read, shows his real talent with words. One of the girls at book club said he wrote this when his wife was pregnant with another child and they needed money. Even when being "mercenary", the man still excels at his craft. In fact, I remember from the other books we read in BBC, that his chapters were all monthly installments in magazine/newspapers. If that was the case, this was probably a single, stand alone story, and I honestly think it's better because of the brevity. There's none of the telling and re-telling in this that there is in, say Martin Chuzzlewit
, nor the prodigiously long descriptions of nothing as in Great Expectations
. At no point reading this did I think, "get on with it!" as I have in all the other Dickens I've read. Frankly, it could have gone on a little longer for me, and I'd have been quite happy.
Here's an example of the wordcraft: "Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire..." See what he does there? It's not enough to say that Scrooge was hard as flint -- he talks about flint giving out fire -- what it does -- as a generous act! Love it!
Beyond the humor in this, I think about the fact that I'd like to get to know pretty much every character in the book better (I'm looking at you, horrible Martin Chuzzlewit
, in which I didn't care for a single. person. in. the. entire. book.). There were characters I barely remembered from the shows I've seen, like Scrooge's nephew, for example. He invites his uncle to Christmas dinner every year! And will keep doing so! He also refuses to say a bad word about Scrooge. I didn't remember/know that both the first 2 ghosts quoted his own words back to Scrooge. It was so perfectly done!
I giggled (and posted on Facebook) at "... darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it."
And then there was the profound. In looking at the mass of ghosts, the commentary is "The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever." I was also reminded of my favorite verse of the hymn "O For a Thousand Tongues" - it's
Hear him, ye deaf
His praise, ye dumb
your loosened tongues employ
Ye blind, behold your savior come,
and leap ye lame for joy
in the Tiny Tim quote about attending church: He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.
Beyond that, in our time at book club, our friend Carey full-on preached a mini message to us about what we are to learn from Scrooge's story. For a book to draw out such good discussion, it must be very well done, I think.
I also thought in reading this that -- I hope -- Mr. Dickens knew good friends and family. I think it would be too difficult to have written this without them. Lines like It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in desease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour.
I said a couple times at book club that in this book in particular, I thought Dickens sort of had a style about him that reminded me of present-day bloggers. There were several stream-of-consciousness phrases/sentences that sounded bloggy to me, and then at the end, the clear "... and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father..." I just got a kick out of that :)
I'll end with Scrooge's pledge, as it's a worthy one and one I don't want to forget: "I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."