Every year at this time I try to reread something relevant to the season. My mother is getting rid of things in preparation for a move, and recently gave me this and some other Christmas books she used to put out on the coffee table in the winter when I was young, and so I decided it was time to reread it.
There are so many adaptations of the Dickens original (my favorite is the Alastair Sim film), that we think we all know the story intimately, but reading what Dickens wrote always offers things to me I’d forgotten, and a new appreciation for his language, humor and storytelling. For instance, everyone knows the the opening line, “Marley was dead: to begin with.” And some may remember the last line of the first paragraph, “Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.” But the second paragraph is an entertaining aside about the origin of that saying which includes the thought, “I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade.”
It’s quite typical of Victorian authors to go off on tangents and elaborate points, and that can be tiresome, but Dickens is still very readable and rarely bores me. More, he paints a detailed picture of the London (and England) of his time, with all its dreary weather, pollution, social injustice and class snobbery that one gets only hints of in, for instance, A. Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” stories, which I also reread this past year. He puts a human face on all of it, and rarely lectures directly, something I don’t care for, but lets the story and the characters make his points. He did so excellently in this famous story, and I think we all know the points he made. In fact, he may have impacted the way much of the English-speaking world thinks about Christmas as much as “A Charlie Brown Christmas” did for another generation.
This edition is not valuable, and the illustrations aren’t particularly good, but it has memories for me that I treasure, and the story itself is well worth reading.