12/22/2021 - Charles Dickens

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I always say I want to visit England someday.  Seeing all the places I've read about so frequently is definitely on my bucket list. But what I really mean is I want to go back in time to experience Victorian England. I am fascinated by this time period and the coziness it evokes for me. Of course, I know that in actuality, it wasn't the best time to be alive. No modern medicine, impoverished children working long hours in factories and workhouses, Jack the Ripper roaming the back alleys... Would I actually want to live there? No. But a vacation in Victorian London? Sign me up.

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Nothing else seems to embody the coziness of this time period quite like Charles Dickens' (1812–1870) classic novella "A Christmas Carol" (1843). One of his best-known works, it tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge.  Starting out as a greedy miser hating Christmas, he eventually transforms into a kind and caring man through visitations of four spirits. First by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and then by ghosts of Christmas past, Christmas present, and of Christmas yet to come. I am sure you must be familiar with the full details.

"No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another."

"A Christmas Carol" Movie Marathon

Every year we watch countless screen adaptations of this masterpiece throughout the holiday season. Year after year, my top 3 versions are as follows:

  1. "The Muppet Christmas Carol" (1992) is my absolute tip-top of the list favorite, by a wide margin. Ebenezer Scrooge, played by Michael Caine and the rest of the cast, mostly Muppets is an absolute must-watch every year.
  2. "Scrooged" (1988) is a modern retelling, featuring Bill Murray as Frank Cross (Scrooge). I love this version. It manages to take the theme that everyone knows and make it something new. I'm a big fan of irreverent Christmas movies and stories.
  3. It just wouldn't be the Christmas season without "A Christmas Carol" (1999) featuring Patrick Stewart as Scrooge and "A Christmas Carol" (1984) starring George C. Scott. Both are great adaptations and pretty much toss-up ties for the third spot. I would lean slightly towards Stewart, my husband towards Scott (and this being number two).
  4. I know I said top 3, but "The Man Who Invented Christmas" (2017) is a wonderful recent film about Charles Dickens' struggle to write "A Christmas Carol" back in 1843. Including some back story of Dickens' life and his writing process while creating this work puts a really interesting twist into this retelling. This is another must-watch for us.

Besides those versions listed above, so far this year we have also found the time to watch the animated "Mickey's Christmas Carol" (1983), the musical "Scrooge" (1970) with Albert Finney, the colorized version of "Scrooge" (1935) with Seymour Hicks, and "Scrooge" (1951) starring Alastair Sim.

We will probably try to watch Disney's "A Christmas Carol"(2009) with Jim Carrey, "A Christmas Carol: The Musical" (2004) starring Kelsey Grammer and "An American Christmas Carol" (1979) with Henry Winkler, as these are usually in our yearly re-watch rotation.

I'm sure they are others that I am missing, my husband has at least 30 versions on DVD or Blu-ray in his collection. He will obsessively watch as many obscure versions as he can squeeze in. I am not always the biggest fan of all of them. Even he will admit some of the adaptations are not that good and we steer clear of them after watching once. Wikipedia has a pretty exhaustive list of the movies, TV shows, and books based on the story.

"A Christmas Carol" Related Books

As far as books go, besides grabbing the actual "A Christmas Carol" (1843) written by Dickens himself, we have some other related works about his life, writing the novella, and other general Victorian Era topics below.

My absolute new favorite though is hands-down, "Mr. Dickens and His Carol" (2020) by Samantha Silva. While I've read the original Christmas Carol several times, this is the only book adaptation that I feel comes close to evoking the same nostalgic feeling as the original. Silva tells the tale of Dickens writing A Christmas Carol. Similar to the movie I mentioned above, she tells how his previous work had flopped and he was facing financial ruin if he didn't come up with another best-seller, and fast. Burdened with writer's block, he walks the city streets every night hoping to find inspiration. The way Silva parallels his struggles with the story of "A Christmas Carol" is perfection. With the writing and the feelings of nostalgia, this book is an excellent addition to your holiday book shelf.

I hope you'll explore the other Dickens books, both fiction and non-fiction that we've listed here at History Book By Book!

Other Similar Books

Other suggestions on the subject of the Charles Dickens.

Other suggestions on the subject of the Victorian Era.

About the Author

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Emily Cook is the curator of History Book By Book, and the creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-12 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full-year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 18 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also make incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books, and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on BYL / HBBB Facebook, BYL Twitter, and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.