Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Book Review - A Christmas Carol (Special Edition) by Charles Dickens

Purchase this book at The Book Depository (affiliate link)
This is the first time I've read this classic holiday story, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I can't believe I haven't read it before now. I think part of my hesitation was because I've seen the story dramatized in dozens of different ways during my lifetime (really, I've even seen the Flintstones version), and I was worried that it would be a little bit boring to read a story that I already "knew" on a basic level. But as I made my way through this short little novella, I realized that I was so very wrong. No matter how many dramatizations I've seen, they never could compare to the wonderful original written version.

I'll forgo the story summarization for this review, since I think most people have probably seen the basic story outline as I have. Instead, I'll explain some of the things I really liked about the book version and specifically this "Special Edition" version.

One of the things I really like about Dickens's story is that it is a story about hope. It shows that even the most morally repugnant person can have a change of heart and find forgiveness. Even though he seems like a cold, uncaring soul at the beginning, you can see how Scrooge's heart begins to change with the visitation of each spirit. He is grouchy and resistant when the first ghost arrives, but by the time the last ghost appears he is really ready to make a positive change in his life. My favorite character in the book is Scrooge's nephew, Fred. He is so cheerful and friendly, and never gives up on trying to win over his disagreeable uncle.

This "Special Edition" includes extensive sidenotes by Stephen Skelton to define period terms we don't use today, explain how parts of the story reflected Dickens's own life, and to comment on the Christian themes in the story. The sidenotes were quite useful and extremely interesting. They really helped me to better understand the story and to see the ways that Dickens's faith influenced it. There are also thought-provoking questions at the end of each stave (chapter) for family or book group discussion. These questions are broken up into four groups: Telling the Story, Telling Your Story, Telling the Story of Christmas, and Living the Story. The questions would certainly provoke meaningful discussion between parents and their children during the Christmas season.

This was a wonderful holiday read, and I am so glad I did not put it off for another day. I now understand exactly why this story has become so entrenched in our culture and society. It really deserves its reputation as a classic. Another book to add to my keeper shelf!

Rating: ★★★★★ 5/5 stars - It doesn't get much better than this.

**I won this book in a giveaway from Bookin' With Bingo! Thank you Karen! If I hadn't won this book, who knows when I would have gotten around to reading it?!**

This was the third book I have read for the Holiday Reading Challenge. For more great holiday reads, check out the challenge review page.

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