Monday, December 22, 2008

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Source: LibriVox
Length: 2 hr, 44 min
Reader: Glen Hallstrom

The book: How can I really review a book so well-loved, widely-read, and continuously-adapted as A Christmas Carol? I first read this book as a school assignment in the sixth grade. Apart from seeing innumerable dramatic performances ranging from a stage musical to a Muppets' movie, this is my first return to the actual book.

The two things I have always disliked about Charles Dickens, in spite of his skills as an author, are (1) his tendency to drag out a story with wordiness and meaningless subplots and (2) his use of blatant sentimentalism to force a reader to think a certain way. The first fault is largely avoided in this novella, since Dickens' inability to find a publisher limited him on how long he could make his story. In thinking about the second fault, I have to admire Dickens' ability to manipulate our emotions, even when we know it's coming. In this book, he deftly induces fear, laughter, sympathy, and disgust. Yes, this is a sentimentalist novel, but it is Christmas after all, and I think that allowing a little sentiment is part of the season.

Rating: 8/10

The reader: Hallstrom affects a deep theatrical voice that enhanced my enjoyment of the novel. In his LibriVox disclaimer, he sounds American but he takes on an actor's British accent for the narration and characters. I'm not sure how accurate his accent is, but as a Southerner myself, I found it pleasent to listen to. Hallstrom really performs the novel rather than reading it and this performance brings out the humor and suspense to their fullest potential. By subtly altering his voice he distinguishes the characters admirably; his Scrooge voice is particularly excellent.


Smokestack Jones said...

Hi listener,

First off, thanks for the heads-up and second, much thanks for the review. I've got a lot of feedeback on this and my Lovecraft stories, but yours is one of the few reviews that went beyond "it was great!" and I thank you again. You also came up with a coule of good observations on Dickens. Yes he is ponderous and sentimental, but in A Christmas Carol those traits actually help the story (also the fact that as a novella, it kept those traits to a minimum).

Anyway, thanks a third time for the review. Oh, and yes, I'm American (Long Beach, California to be exact - the L.A. area).


hopeinbrazil said...

I listened to this book for the first time this Christmas. I've always thought the movie versions were overly dark or overly sentimental. The book was neither. I was charmed!

I miss your reviews. Are you coming back soon? I've recommended you on my blog more than once.

Listener said...

Thanks for your comment. I'm on hiatus right now, listening to some non-free listens and taking a break from blogging. I've been meaning to post a note to that effect. I may get up and running again later in the year, but don't expect any new reviews for at least the next 2-3 months.