Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

A Christmas Carol (Value Books)A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once again, I find myself in the strange position of attempting to write a review for a book that has been a well-loved classic of many, many generations. It’s a difficult task, to be sure.

I try to read A Christmas Carol every year during the holiday season. I often fail to find the time (which is remarkable when one considers just how short the book is: well under 30k words! it wouldn’t even win a NaNoWriMo!), so I’m closer to 1 out of every 3 Christmases than having a true annual tradition. But still, it’s well worth doing.

Now, I like Dickens to begin with. A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Great Expectations: these are some of my favorites. Some think that Mr. Dickens wrote with the wrong incentives and that being paid by the word led to unreasonably long sentences that use far too many words to say simple things. And that’s probably true in a strictly technical sense: but he used those words with style! Dickensian sentence structure is a show-case of the English language and what it can do. He takes words and turns them into twisty little treasures of syntax and vocabulary that hits just the right spot in the brain. Well, my brain at least.

Fortunately for those who don’t have the same fascination with this sort of writing, A Christmas Carol is an easy read even if you’re not one of Charles Dickens’ typical fans. It’s short and can be read in just a few hours. Its story is instantly recognizable and well-known to anyone from an Anglo-Saxon cultural background so you know what’s going to happen next and why. And he doesn’t go too crazy with the language (although, I’ll admit, he did completely over-describe London during the Christmas Present stave).

So A Christmas Carol can be an excellent introduction to Dickens. Or an excellent reminder of why he’s great. Or, possibly, it can just be a warm holiday tradition.

It’s certainly that, if nothing else.

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