Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Book Review: A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol
By: Charles Dickens
Read By: Jim Dale
Published By: Listening Library
Publication Date: October 1, 2003
Page Count: 3 CDs
Source: Library
Audience/Genre: Audiobook, Fiction, Classics

I have a Christmas Eve confession for our readers - I am a high school English teacher who has never read a lick of Dickens, but I've read all seven books in the Harry Potter series (some more than once). You might ask yourself why this maters exactly, but, aside from you and my students now knowing I'm a fraud, ;) these two bits of information are relevant to this review, trust me.

They're relevant pieces of information because this review isn't for A Christmas Carol the novel (though I did love it - five birdies and fifteen thumbs up!) as much as it is for the Jim Dale audio version of the book. 1) Because Jim Dale is AWE-SOME, as readers/listeners of the Harry Potter series know all too well. And 2) because, let's face it, almost everyone knows the story of A Christmas Carol already, I'm not going to tell you anything you don't know already. So I'll separate this review into two parts - the first part of the book by Charles Dickens and the second part is the narration by Jim Dale.

Now, I don't know if there are other novels that are considered "a good introduction" to Dickens, but for me this was a fantastic introduction to an author I previously didn't think I liked. (I was completely wrong, I admit it.) The novel is short and everyone knows the story; that alone gives you an opportunity to focus on the writing and marvel at the impact this story must have had on readers who DIDN'T know the story. Just imagine the sensation this tiny little volume would have caused. And aside from the whole classic literature and critical acclaim thing - it's really good. And not just 1853 good, but 2013 good too. It's tearing up and laughing out loud while you read good, even 160 years later.

Now, add to that Grammy and Tony award winning reader Jim Dale as the narrator and you have the best way to spend a few hours of your holidays. Dale does a fantastic job, as he always does, with narration, inflection, emotion, and especially with character voices. He truly makes the book more enjoyable than it would be when read silently on your own. Fans of the HP series (or The Night Circus, another of my favorite audiobooks that Dale narrates) know this, but trust me, if you've never tried an audiobook before - a Jim Dale reading should be your first. You will never think audiobooks are weird or lame again. ;)

Last Word: After listening the this version a few days on the way to and from work, I decided to buy a copy of my own to read with my classes next December. The narration by Jim Dale makes an already great book a fantastic, amazing, lovely five birdies (a rarity from me).

In his "Ghostly little book," Charles Dickens invents the modern concept of Christmas Spirit and offers one of the world's most adapted and imitated stories. We know Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, not only as fictional characters, but also as icons of the true meaning of Christmas in a world still plagued with avarice and cynicism.

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