Sunday, December 29, 2013

Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, narrated by Tim Curry

A Christmas Carol: An Original PerformanceA Christmas Carol: An Original Performance by Charles Dickens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I've mentioned, I'm no fan of Charles Dickens. But, when I ran across this edition, narrated by Tim Curry, on Audible, I couldn't resist. I honestly don't know if it's the performance or the narration, but I did enjoy it much more than the last time I read it.

Surely you know the story: Ebenezer Scrooge is stingy and hates Christmas, until the Christmas Eve he's visited by the ghost of his business partner, then the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. He's transformed overnight, and becomes the very picture of generosity.

In previous readings, as well as when I watched adaptations of the story, I often wondered if the three ghosts were overkill. Scrooge alters his notions starting with the first ghost. But, the text makes it clear that, without the fear of his impending death, he lacks conviction. Lifetime habits are difficult to break, and it takes more than the realization of how he got to be so stingy, and seeing the impact of his greed on others, to make him vow to change his ways.

The trouble with the approach is that it makes the moral a little easier for modern readers to shrug off. Scrooge's notions are still held by those in the upper-middle classes and above. Perhaps they're not as drastic, but they're no less damaging. But a modern reader who echoes Scrooge's early sentiments can rest assured they won't suffer the fate he so fears. After all, they have families and friends, and Scrooge refuses these. So long as one goes through the motions, then, one can avoid the fate Scrooge so fears. It rather misses the point, but there's wiggle room.

One of the interesting things I noticed about the text is that Scrooge doesn't pass Christmas dinner with the Cratchits, as many movie and play adaptations have him doing. I know why modern adaptations make the change; it's a better illustration of the change that's come over him, and it allows for the iconic line: "And God bless us, every one!" Knowing a few things about Victorian social mores, though, it also makes sense why Dickens didn't end this tale that way.

Tim Curry was an excellent reader for this tale. He has such a range,  I kept forgetting it was one person reading all of the dialogue. He reads with enthusiasm, and sometimes reads in ways that evoke his other roles. He depicts the story excellently, reading in a gravelly, hushed tone through the dark and sinister parts, and allowing for more lightheartedness when the story calls for it. It was a pleasure to listen to his narration, though I can't be sure if I enjoyed the book more because I'm older and more familiar with Victorian literature, or entirely thanks to Mr. Curry's narration.

Either way, if you like this story, I highly recommend you pick up this audio version.

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