7 Dec 2010

THE OXFORD ILLUSTRATED DICKENS CHRISTMAS BOOKS.

First things first - desperate for seasonal reading material, I must say that our local library has done a wonderful job in sourcing and reserving the very limited seasonal reading material it does have in stock, my thanks to all the librarians for all their effort.

Book four in this years holiday reading challenge. Click HERE for details and HERE to post any reviews.


Before I begin I'd just like to say that though most of these short stories/novellas do not directly have anything to do with the holiday season per se but as they were collected together under the heading of Christmas Books I feel justified in adding them to my Holiday 2010 Reading Challenge.

 After A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1843), I thought it would be quite a while (if ever) before I found myself delving into the world of Dickens again and yet here I am .... still having difficulties with the olde English most of the time and only partly understanding just what the stories are about. I wouldn't care but, unlike the afore mentioned A Christmas Carol, I haven't even the advantage of these stories having been made into a film AND I'm still suffering with this awful chest infection which makes concentration a little difficult at times. Oh well, I enjoy a challenge.

An anthology of short 'Christmas' stories, as well as A Christmas Carol this volume also contains:-

  • The Chimes (1844)
  • The Cricket On The Hearth (1845)
  • The Battle Of Life (1846)
  • The Haunted Man (1848).
The Chimes.
(Click HERE to read on-line)

Set on New Years Eve, this (I think) is a 'debate' in story form about the inherent wicked evil ways (or not) of the poor.

The story of Toby 'Trotty' Veck and his daughter Meg, I found this, on the whole, to be a rather depressing story with none of the humour (however slight that may have been) of A Christmas Carol. That said ......

I was totally fascinated by the account of the streets on New Year's Eve and how similar they were to our modern day equivalent with all the holiday hustle and bustle.

The streets were full of motion, and the shops were decked out gaily. The New Year, like an Infant Heir to the whole world, was waited for, with welcomes, presents and rejoicings

AND, the fact that the story had the most memorably wonderfully named Mrs Chickenstalker.

The Cricket On The Hearth.
(Click HERE to read on-line)

A much more humorous story (barring the complicated language, I almost enjoyed it) with some really nice characters (I especially liked the rather plump, jovial Dot and found myself chuckling at the antics of the nanny), and one truly magical moment, The Cricket In The Hearth tells the tale of the Peerybingles (more great names), their nanny, a mysterious old bearded man (or is he?), a toy maker AND not one but two crickets one of whom gives some much needed advice for as we all know crickets are .....

The spirits of the Fireside and the Hearth (who) address themselves to human kind.

The one thing I really, really didn't like about the book being the almost constant referral to Bertha as the 'Blind Girl'. A sign of the times I suppose, it's just it is hard to imagine any modern author using a persons disability to identify them rather than their name.

The Battle Of Life.
(Click HERE to read it on-line)

The Battle Of Life, regarding one Dr Jeddler, his two daughters, Marion and Grace, and two love-struck 'gentlmen' is a story of love and self-sacrifice. Like the rest of the Dickens I have read this is typical in that it has a happy(ish) ending and yet different in that there is no supernatural element.

The least favourite of the stories contained within this volume, I really couldn't bring my self to engage with any of the characters apart from Mrs Craggs and Mrs Snitchey who sadly didn't play a huge part.

The Haunted Man.
(Click HERE to read on-line)

Better known (or so I'm informed) as The Haunted Man And The Ghost's Bargain, this novella is more about the spirit of the Christmas holiday as opposed to the holiday itself. Quite gloomy and yet not without humour it tells the tale of Mr Redlaw, a man much taken to brooding over the wrongs done to him who is haunted by a spirit.

In many ways I found this offering quite similar to A Christmas Carol in that there were 'spectres', talk of Christmas and, even, the use of the word 'humbug'. Similar but much harder to read but then that could well be due to the fact that (A) this is one of Dickens less well known stories and (B) it hasn't been adapted to the big screen.

The Oxford Illustrated Dickens Christmas Book was a library book read.

* First published dates indicated in brackets.

16 comments:

Misha1989 said...

I thought I have read everything by Dickens! Apparently not...
Thanks for the review! I really need to read this book.

chitra said...

PW, thanks for the beautiful comment you made on my blog. I am happy.

Suko said...

What a terrific post! I hope to read the novella online soon.

Arti said...

Wonderful reviews and I seem to love all of these stories... I am so sorry to hear that you have been a lil unwell of late...
Please Take care and Get well very very soon, Petty:)

Melissa Gill said...

Oh, I'd forgotten about The Cricket on the Hearth. I love that story. I can't wait to read it again.

Feel better.

Dorte H said...

Mrs Chickenstalker? I must consider reading that story just for the name :D

GMR said...

Now this sounds like an interesting little book, but oh boy....it doesn't sound like you and Dickens get along very well. All the same, you gave it a try and that's what really counts. Happier reading on your next pick!

Suzanne Jones said...

Sounds like a great book - and one I haven't read.

XX

Oddyoddyo13 said...

Sounds like a bit of a difficult read! I hope you feel better-and soon! Chest infections are NEVER fun.

Su said...

I'm definitely going to look for these at the library!

Kelly said...

I admire you for jumping back in for more Dickens!

I'm enjoying your countdown calendar. The little horn for today disturbed my Alice as she lay sleeping on the couch next to me!

Hope you start feeling better soon!

naida said...

Mrs Chickenstalker! Thats quite the name.
Odd about referring to the one character as the Blind Girl. I guess it is a sign of the times.

Great review. I need to read something 'Christmasy' too.

http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/

Martha@A Sense of Humor is Essential said...

This is a delightful review of these Dickens Classics. Thank you!
Thanks for your visit today and "Jersey attitude" can be summarized from the NJattitude.com site "Let me explain the attitude thing: We are an intense bunch, driven, clearly focused and not afraid of very much. We know what we want and we go for it in the most direct route possible. We are very friendly, we just don't have much patience for people getting in the way of where we're going or what we're doing. We have a high level of self-confidence, a high level of motivation and a low level of patience for certain things. New Jerseyan's don't think of themselves as being better than anyone else, we just want to do things, get things done quickly and easily.

Oh, yeah, another thing, being born in New Jersey also means that we have built in BS detectors. So if someone tries to BS us, we automatically know it."

budh.aaah said...

Wow thanks for you gave a link wher I can now go and read Dickens anytime and see the great portrait of his..

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

these look excellent!!

Wakela Runen said...

Wow! That was very adventurous of you to attempt reading Dickens when you aren't feeling well. They are difficult reads when you are feeling ok. But when you are under the weather, it is just that much more difficult.