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30 review for Christmas Books: A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life, The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emer (A Little Haze)

    A Christmas Carol It's hard to credit that I've been reading Dickens since I was 12 years old and yet this is the first time I have ever sat down to read A Christmas Carol. I think anyone who celebrates Christmas (and even those that do not) must be intimately familiar with the story of miserly Scrooge and how he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future and how these night visits change him for the better. ‘I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year A Christmas Carol It's hard to credit that I've been reading Dickens since I was 12 years old and yet this is the first time I have ever sat down to read A Christmas Carol. I think anyone who celebrates Christmas (and even those that do not) must be intimately familiar with the story of miserly Scrooge and how he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future and how these night visits change him for the better. ‘I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.’ The story is truly wonderful. And I don't know if that's because it is so familiar and comforting and because it makes me truly feel Christmassy. Or if it's because Dickens was an utter genius at storytelling. To me it's a combination of both. Reading the original, stripped away from all the Hollywood razzmatazz and muppets, brings the reader truly face to face with a tantalising glimpse of the Dickensian world. And with the way that Dickens carefully layered his story to give us an understanding of how Scrooge had become his miserly self and how it was entirely plausible that this cold hearted man could change over night. And it also brings into sharp focus the disparity between rich and poor and teaches the modern reader, in much the same way as it taught the Dickensian reader, to be thankful for the privileges of our lives and that sharing and caring is the only way to true happiness. The sights and sounds of the novel are entirely tangible. I really felt like I was existing within this world with Scrooge and the spirits. (Kudos to this particular Oxford Classics edition though. The annotations and footnotes were certainly helpful) But what really got me is how the Dickensian Christmas is still similar to the Christmas I know and love. It's as if Dickens himself is responsible for so many of our traditions... And in some ways he is. For he has forever memorialised Christmas festivities for countless generations to come. 'God bless us everyone' indeed. Impossible not to give it five stars -------------- This book also contains the following stories: The Chimes The Cricket on the Hearth The Battle of Life The Haunted Man I wasn't as taken with any of these stories and therefore am lowering my rating to four stars overall for this collection. For more reviews and book related chat check out my blog

  2. 4 out of 5

    Scottsdale Public Library

    Virtual Classics Book Club: A Christmas Carol Date: December 19, 2020 10:30AM MST Venue: Scottsdale Public Library Virtual Program, AZ, US Type: book club meeting Website: https://scottsdale.libnet.info/event/... The holidays are here! Join us to talk about Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (the book or the movie. No judgment here!). It's a good time to revisit the tale of Scrooge's foray into the spirit world! We'll meet online to discuss the novel from 10:30-11:30am mst on Saturday, 12/19. Everyone Virtual Classics Book Club: A Christmas Carol Date: December 19, 2020 10:30AM MST Venue: Scottsdale Public Library Virtual Program, AZ, US Type: book club meeting Website: https://scottsdale.libnet.info/event/... The holidays are here! Join us to talk about Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (the book or the movie. No judgment here!). It's a good time to revisit the tale of Scrooge's foray into the spirit world! We'll meet online to discuss the novel from 10:30-11:30am mst on Saturday, 12/19. Everyone who registers at https://scottsdale.libnet.info/event/... will receive an e-mail containing a link to join the discussion. No camera? No problem. The e-mail to registrants will also have a phone number you can call to join. ************************************************************************** Everyone knows A Christmas Carol. The story of Scrooge’s rough night is inescapable in December. There’s a version starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. And one where Bill Murray plays the Scrooge character. There’s even an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess that borrows from the Dickens story. And sure, you’ve seen one of the many adaptations in movies or on TV, but when was the last time you read Charles Dickens’ classic story about learning to love the holidays? Published in December of 1843, A Christmas Carol is the most famous example of the British tradition of Christmas ghost stories. Sitting around the fire telling these stories was very popular in the 1800s and early 1900s. Scrooge makes a lot of money, but he refuses to help anyone with it. And he never met a negative comment that he didn’t like. He hates Christmas. This was a lot of fun to read. This is a tale of redemption that is told every year for a reason. We all want to believe that a person can learn to be a better version of themselves. And at a breezy 130 pages, it certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome. We here at the Scottsdale Public Library will be having a virtual meeting to talk about A Christmas Carol on Saturday, 12/19 from 10:30-11:30 Arizona time. And you’re invited! Follow this link to register for a spot: https://scottsdale.libnet.info/event/... Space is limited, so act fast! ********************************************************************** If you watch the movie A Christmas Carol every holiday season, why not try reading the book one year? It is truly a timeless tale with a pertinent take away message for wrapping up the year and forging into the new one ahead with a better outlook. Dickens’s tale never loses its’ luster and relevance, especially in this fast paced world where it can be easy to get lost in the holiday bedlam, where we forget to slow down and enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Not enough incentive to pick up a classic? Ok, read it to sound really cool and literary at holiday parties. Hunt down the Modern Library edition for other collected stories. Don’t be a humbug-just read it already! C’mon you knew I had to add that in… -Lisanne E.

  3. 5 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    Five Christmas novellas from 1843-1848, Dickens’s Xmas-crazy period (followed by the rest of his career), ranging from the oft-forgotten title piece (who reads that anymore?) to the four others read religiously in homes from Puerto Rico to Portsmouth (or have I mixed that up?). ‘The Chimes’ is the grittiest of these moralistic, blatantly sentimental novellas, with its imagined descent into degradation and squalor if the protag refuses to cherish Xmas, and ‘The Cricket on the Hearth’ is the most Five Christmas novellas from 1843-1848, Dickens’s Xmas-crazy period (followed by the rest of his career), ranging from the oft-forgotten title piece (who reads that anymore?) to the four others read religiously in homes from Puerto Rico to Portsmouth (or have I mixed that up?). ‘The Chimes’ is the grittiest of these moralistic, blatantly sentimental novellas, with its imagined descent into degradation and squalor if the protag refuses to cherish Xmas, and ‘The Cricket on the Hearth’ is the most comical and famous for its six-page opening section where a cricket out-chirps a kettle. ‘The Battle of Life’ is pure melodrama and probably the most dated, unessential Dickens out there, closely followed by the near incoherent ‘The Haunted Man.’ But the best of these novellas (the first three) are quintessentially Dickensian and fine amusement for uncynical Xmas reading—complete anathemas to this day and age, but worthwhile bonuses once the novels from Pickwick to Our Mutual Friend have been completed.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Redfox5

    A Christmas Carol (5/5) - If you make time to read one Christmas book, make it this one. Really enjoyed this re-read. Who doesn't love the tale of Mister Scrooge finally finding his Christmas Spirit? If you never read it before, you will know the story as you've no doubt seen it in one of its many adaptations over the years. The best being 'The Muppets Christmas Carol' . But this doesn't take any enjoyment away from it. Some awesome sentences in here. I find myself wanting to shout 'There's A Christmas Carol (5/5) - If you make time to read one Christmas book, make it this one. Really enjoyed this re-read. Who doesn't love the tale of Mister Scrooge finally finding his Christmas Spirit? If you never read it before, you will know the story as you've no doubt seen it in one of its many adaptations over the years. The best being 'The Muppets Christmas Carol' . But this doesn't take any enjoyment away from it. Some awesome sentences in here. I find myself wanting to shout 'There's more of gravy than of grave about you!' randomly at people but I've held back so far ;) I also love this one 'Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!' It's one of the few books I find myself quoting in my head. A Christmas must read. The Chimes (2/5) - I tried to read this last time I had a copy of this book, and I gave up about halfway through as I was bored to tears. This time I made it through to the end! I understood it better as the meaning of the story was explained in the introduction. I didn't get it last time. Basically rich men passing judgement on the poor and making them feel like it is their own fault for their circumstance. And cursing them when they do something terrible but not passing the same judgement on their peers when they commit a similar act. To use an example not from the book - A rich man who drinks is an alcoholic who needs help for his problem, poor man is a drunk who brought this on himself. Something you see lots of in the media today, which is sad as it means that things haven't moved on much from Victorian times. I hated when they were making poor Toby feel bad for having trout and then bloody eating it themselves! All the while proclaiming themselves to be friends of the poor! While this was good observation of society at the time when Dickens wrote this, it unfortunately doesn't make for great reading. It's not one I would pick up again. The Cricket On The Hearth (2/5) - I feel like I'm being generous giving this two stars as this was not a pleasure to read. Basically a book of misunderstandings that are put right by a magical cricket and all is well at the end. Nothing partially Christmassy about this book either. I don't understand how Dickens can write something as awesome as 'The Christmas Carol' and then follow up with stories like this. The Battle Of Life (2/5) - Another mediocre story. This one involves a sister, giving up her love(even though he loves her back) so her sister can marry him. Then she comes back at the end and tells her sister this. I'd be well annoyed if my sister did this. Who wants to marry their sisters cast offs anyways? This started promising with the sisters dancing in the garden but I soon started to struggle and lost the plot once the Dr and his friends were talking. Only one more to go! Hopefully this will be better! Th Haunted Man (1/5) I am so done with these Christmas stories. I had no idea what was going on in this one. Or what that weird little kid was, or how any of the characters were related to one another. Terrible. Overall the only story worth reading from this collection is 'A Christmas Carol'. I wouldn't bother with any of the others, especially if you are trying to get in a festive mood, as there is nothing Christmassy about them at all. This is a shame as you start with the best story and then just follow with disappointments.

  5. 5 out of 5

    ⋆ ✧ charlotte ✧ ⋆

    3.5 stars

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    When it comes to Christmas books, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is probably the first book that comes to mind. Published in 1843, this novella was an instant success and has been a beloved classic since then. I am not going to go into a plot summary because I believe most people know the story but if you don’t, go watch A Muppet’s Christmas Carol. Told in five staves (similar to stanzas or verses) this book has been adapted so many times that A Christmas Carol has just become a part of th When it comes to Christmas books, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is probably the first book that comes to mind. Published in 1843, this novella was an instant success and has been a beloved classic since then. I am not going to go into a plot summary because I believe most people know the story but if you don’t, go watch A Muppet’s Christmas Carol. Told in five staves (similar to stanzas or verses) this book has been adapted so many times that A Christmas Carol has just become a part of the Christmas period. While compassion, forgiveness and getting into the Christmas spirit is the major theme of this novella, one thing that really stuck with me is Dickens’ ideas of isolation and loneliness. While it is true that Ebenezer Scrooge never indicates he is feeling alone, since the death of Jacob Marley seven years earlier there is a sense that he has falling in despair. Marley died on Christmas Eve and appeared to be Scrooge’s only companion, which leads to a disdain for the holiday period. Charles Dickens wanted to emphasise the importance of being with friends and family, especially during Christmas. However I got the sense that he may have treated the idea of isolation poorly. Sure, Scrooge was a grumpy old man who was tight with his money but I got no real indication that he was unhappy to be alone. Scrooge could have been an introvert and enjoyed the quiet solitude; is that really such a bad thing? Then all of a sudden Scrooge is cured from his rationality and becomes an extravert. This is a little strange, Scrooge’s emotional and psychological makeup might not be pleasant or agreeable to the popular worldview but they were his own thoughts. Scrooge was a financial supporter of The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 and didn’t want to give money to a charity that worked against his political ideology. I am not bagging out A Christmas Carol, I do enjoy it but as I was re-reading this novella I kept wondering what this story is saying if we take out the element of Christmas. Basically this is the story of curing someone of his or her personality. I had a lot of fun looking at this book from another point of view, it just gave me a lot more to think about. A Christmas Carol is a nice quick story about the importance of being with your friends and family during this holiday period. Next year I might try Truman Capote’s collection of stories about Christmas. This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2014/...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Pam Baddeley

    With Christmas looming, this seemed a good time to finally get around to reading this collection of five longer stories published by Dickens at Christmas, starting with the famous "A Christmas Carol" which was by far my favourite. I found "The Chimes" rather odd - a character is 'taught a lesson' as was Scrooge, but he seems a harmless old codger and there are sanctimonious and hypocritical rich men in the story who do far more to deserve such a lesson. His only real fault is to be a bit judgment With Christmas looming, this seemed a good time to finally get around to reading this collection of five longer stories published by Dickens at Christmas, starting with the famous "A Christmas Carol" which was by far my favourite. I found "The Chimes" rather odd - a character is 'taught a lesson' as was Scrooge, but he seems a harmless old codger and there are sanctimonious and hypocritical rich men in the story who do far more to deserve such a lesson. His only real fault is to be a bit judgmental when reading a newspaper account of a woman who drowned herself and her child. "The Cricket on the Hearth" is about an older man married to a younger woman, and his being brought to doubt her fidelity by another older man who is planning to marry similarly but has a cynical attitude. In "The Battle of Life", a community dwells in a place which was once the scene of battlefield slaughter, but after the descriptive beginning which depicts the horrors of the fighting, the story isn't really about that at all, but about a family where perhaps the expected future marriage is not the future idyll certain people expect. And "The Haunted Man" is about a chemist-lecturer who is offered an exchange - his evil supernatural twin will stop bothering him if he agrees to take on a certain "gift". This story had some interesting subsidiary characters and depictions of family life among people who could be described as 'poor but honest'. As with quite a bit of Dickens' fiction, the young women are beautiful, virtuous and a bit dim, and are patronised by their menfolk. There is also quite a bit of saccharine sentimentality in places. "A Christmas Carol" suffers least from these two aspects, which is probably why it is my favourite and it is certainly the most memorable - it is not surprising that there are so many fairly faithful adaptations which use a lot of the dialogue verbatim. Because of this and the final story in the book, I rate this at 3 stars overall.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    I liked A Christmas Carol, I liked The Chimes and I liked Cricket on the Hearth. The last two stories however, weren't that great in my opinion. I didn't get into the story of The Battle of Life at all until I was well past the first half of it. It wasn't entirely bad because of a few characters I liked; I also liked the little scene at the inn. Come to think of it, that's probably where I finally stopped sighing and got interested instead... The Haunted Man was entertainable at most. It didn't m I liked A Christmas Carol, I liked The Chimes and I liked Cricket on the Hearth. The last two stories however, weren't that great in my opinion. I didn't get into the story of The Battle of Life at all until I was well past the first half of it. It wasn't entirely bad because of a few characters I liked; I also liked the little scene at the inn. Come to think of it, that's probably where I finally stopped sighing and got interested instead... The Haunted Man was entertainable at most. It didn't move me as much as it maybe should have? I knew there was some suspense meant to be in there, but it just didn't have any effect on me whatsoever. The story I probably liked best was Cricket on the Hearth. Great characters, great story with a very surprising twist in the end. End conclusion is that I was planning on reading this book every year around the Christmas holidays, but after reading it for the first time now, I say once every 2-3 years and only the first three stories will be a lot more realistic instead.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amy Spector

    Time for a Reread! How many can I get through before Christmas? A Christmas Carol The Chimes The Cricket of the Hearth The Battle of Life The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain Time for a Reread! How many can I get through before Christmas? A Christmas Carol The Chimes The Cricket of the Hearth The Battle of Life The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jacob McConville

    I think there's a reason we don't remember the Other Christmas Books but A Christmas Carol is so good that I'm not going to mark it down I think there's a reason we don't remember the Other Christmas Books but A Christmas Carol is so good that I'm not going to mark it down

  11. 5 out of 5

    Suzy

    I started this for my 2020 Christmas reading focusing on the "other" novels, but it's not holding my interest so putting it aside until next year. There's a reason that the other Christmas novels Dickens wrote didn't stand up to A Christmas Carol. Why I'm reading this: I just read The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits where I learned that Dickens attempted to recreate the magic of A Christmas Carol by writing a I started this for my 2020 Christmas reading focusing on the "other" novels, but it's not holding my interest so putting it aside until next year. There's a reason that the other Christmas novels Dickens wrote didn't stand up to A Christmas Carol. Why I'm reading this: I just read The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits where I learned that Dickens attempted to recreate the magic of A Christmas Carol by writing a short Christmas novel every year thereafter. Four of those additional Christmas books are collected in this volume, along with the original smash hit ACC. I love Everyman's Library books and am eager to read the introduction to this one written by Margaret Atwood!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Hamish

    Maybe I deserved this for my recent Dickens idolatry. Maybe I loved him too much and I needed to be reminded that he's only human, 'cause this was hella weak. Well, A Christmas Carol is pretty good, though not nearly as good as I remembered it being from my childhood. The Battle of Life is vaguely good and The Haunted Man is decent, but The Cricket On the Hearth is weak and I loathed The Chimes. My theory on Dickens is that longer Dickens is better Dickens. The shorter his stuff gets, the more sl Maybe I deserved this for my recent Dickens idolatry. Maybe I loved him too much and I needed to be reminded that he's only human, 'cause this was hella weak. Well, A Christmas Carol is pretty good, though not nearly as good as I remembered it being from my childhood. The Battle of Life is vaguely good and The Haunted Man is decent, but The Cricket On the Hearth is weak and I loathed The Chimes. My theory on Dickens is that longer Dickens is better Dickens. The shorter his stuff gets, the more slapped together it seems (maybe hastily written to make the xmas issue of his journal; incidentally some of these stories aren't even xmas related, they're called the Christmas Books because they came out in the aforementioned xmas issue). Granted his plots are always kind of convoluted and rely very heavily on coincidence, but here the twists don't even make sense. The characters are poorly sketched and everything reeks of being rushed. You can get away with just reading A Christmas Carol and skipping the rest.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lee Broderick

    To begin at the beginning, A Christmas Carol is superb. It's the foundation myth of the secular Christmas for a good reason and no matter how many times you've seen, read or heard any number of different interpretations, the original still maintains an ability to pull on heartstrings. Yes, it moralises (surely the entire point of the story) but somehow it avoids being patronising, just as it can somehow remain magical without being at all mawkish. Given its incredible power and success, it sh To begin at the beginning, A Christmas Carol is superb. It's the foundation myth of the secular Christmas for a good reason and no matter how many times you've seen, read or heard any number of different interpretations, the original still maintains an ability to pull on heartstrings. Yes, it moralises (surely the entire point of the story) but somehow it avoids being patronising, just as it can somehow remain magical without being at all mawkish. Given its incredible power and success, it should be no surprise that both Charles Dickens and his publishers wished to capitalise on it. Whilst Dickens can hardly be accused of being a one-hit wonder it's certainly fair to apply that epithet when we're considering this particular sub-set of stories. Like so many others, Dickens sought desperately to recapture the magic of that first story but fell short time and time again. So desperately did he try, in fact, that his last attempt, The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain , is close to being a parody of his first. You can sense the desperation in this move without having to read it - having failed on three separate occasions to recapture the soul and imagination of that first piece, why not go back to square one and talk about regrets and life-changing spirits on Christmas Eve? To break it down then - the original is fully deserving of five stars but the imitations pale and bring the whole book down to their level.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    I keep forgetting how much I like Dickens's writing, even if it was padded out to earn more money. I keep saying that everytime I read Dickens but it's true. For a challenge I'm doing I decided to read The Cricket on the Hearth, but I couldn't find it as a standalone at the library. So I picked up this one which has four other Christmas tales as well. Of course it has A Christmas Carol and I wasn't going to read that one again, but I caved and did. It's as delightful as it was the first time. The I keep forgetting how much I like Dickens's writing, even if it was padded out to earn more money. I keep saying that everytime I read Dickens but it's true. For a challenge I'm doing I decided to read The Cricket on the Hearth, but I couldn't find it as a standalone at the library. So I picked up this one which has four other Christmas tales as well. Of course it has A Christmas Carol and I wasn't going to read that one again, but I caved and did. It's as delightful as it was the first time. The other four, including Cricket, were unknown to me. I mean, I'd heard the title The Chimes, but I had never heard of The Battle of Life or The Haunted Man. It was interesting to read these stories as well as the "famous" ones. If you like Dickens, read it. Re-read A Christmas Carol as well. And sit back and enjoy.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    A mixed bag of Dickens, though all inferior to his longer works - he seems to thrive more on a large canvas. Christmas Carol is easily the most magical and inventive (which accounts for its continued popularity). The Chimes is insipid and partly a knockoff of A Christmas Carol, while The Cricket on the Hearth and The Battle of Life are pleasant but pedestrian love stories. None have much of the verve, wit and semantic gymnastics that make a true Dickens classic. Interesting to compare A Christmas A mixed bag of Dickens, though all inferior to his longer works - he seems to thrive more on a large canvas. Christmas Carol is easily the most magical and inventive (which accounts for its continued popularity). The Chimes is insipid and partly a knockoff of A Christmas Carol, while The Cricket on the Hearth and The Battle of Life are pleasant but pedestrian love stories. None have much of the verve, wit and semantic gymnastics that make a true Dickens classic. Interesting to compare A Christmas Carol to the final Christmas book, The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain, which I thought second best in this collection. Where the first Christmas book is all fizz and bubble, the final one is dark and mournful; the message of the former is to be charitable and loving to all, whereas the message of the latter is to remember our sorrows because they make us better people. One gets the feeling that in the intervening years between writing the two, Dickens' attitude to life changed. To quote Coleridge, "A sadder and a wiser man / He rose the morrow morn."

  16. 5 out of 5

    Morgan

    Besides A Christmas Carol, the other stories in this collection are good to read during Christmas, but don't expect anything better. Most of these seemed like Dickens wrote for the money rather than actually wanting to write the story. Never read his other short stories, but I'm aware his novels aren't as fantastical as these stories. Maybe he was writing out of his element here. IMO, Dickens is a better novelist than writing short stories and novellas. This edition contains A Christmas Carol, th Besides A Christmas Carol, the other stories in this collection are good to read during Christmas, but don't expect anything better. Most of these seemed like Dickens wrote for the money rather than actually wanting to write the story. Never read his other short stories, but I'm aware his novels aren't as fantastical as these stories. Maybe he was writing out of his element here. IMO, Dickens is a better novelist than writing short stories and novellas. This edition contains A Christmas Carol, the Chimes, the Cricket on the Hearth, Battle of Life, and the Hunted Man. I still liked this book even though I really only liked 2 of the 5 stories. It's well put together and well organized. It says it's illustrated, but only a few for the first two stories and the others don't have any. Each story is about 100 pages long, so you can read each one in a day I would think.

  17. 4 out of 5

    AJW

    Of the five Christmas novellas that Dickens wrote, I liked The Cricket on the Hearth the best. I actually cried and went through three tissues which I've never done before. The Chimes is a really weird read and increased my respect for Dickens as an experimental author willing to push the medium. The one I liked least was A Battle of Life. What I like about Dickens is that he writes from the heart. His compassion for the poor and unfortunate shines through. I got the sense that he really cared f Of the five Christmas novellas that Dickens wrote, I liked The Cricket on the Hearth the best. I actually cried and went through three tissues which I've never done before. The Chimes is a really weird read and increased my respect for Dickens as an experimental author willing to push the medium. The one I liked least was A Battle of Life. What I like about Dickens is that he writes from the heart. His compassion for the poor and unfortunate shines through. I got the sense that he really cared for his characters and for the real life people who lived in similar situations. And he attacks the hypocrisy of powerful rich people who claim to care but actually cause harm.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mafalda Fernandes

    Only read "A Christmas Carol" and "The Chimes" in the Christmas of 2016. I'll save the rest of the stories for next year. Only read "A Christmas Carol" and "The Chimes" in the Christmas of 2016. I'll save the rest of the stories for next year.

  19. 4 out of 5

    PhebeAnn

    3.5 stars. Always impossible to rate a collection though because I rarely like all stories the same amount. In this collection of Dickens's Christmas novellas, I loved A Christmas Carol (the only one I'd read before) and The Haunted Man (4.5 stars each) and didn't like The Chimes (1 star) and the others were somewhere in the middle. Like A Christmas Carol, The Haunted Man and The Chimes have supernatural themes. Except I felt Haunted Man was didactic in this kind of relatable artful way whereas th 3.5 stars. Always impossible to rate a collection though because I rarely like all stories the same amount. In this collection of Dickens's Christmas novellas, I loved A Christmas Carol (the only one I'd read before) and The Haunted Man (4.5 stars each) and didn't like The Chimes (1 star) and the others were somewhere in the middle. Like A Christmas Carol, The Haunted Man and The Chimes have supernatural themes. Except I felt Haunted Man was didactic in this kind of relatable artful way whereas the Chimes only barely made sense at all. In all three stories, the protagonist is shown a shadow version of his life, the purpose of which is to instruct him to change his current behaviour. The thing that ground my gears about the Chimes, however, is that poor Trotty gets a bad rap. His only crime is to let his thinking be infected by the bourgeoisie Alderman Chute, who makes him feel dissatisfied with his lot in life and pessimistic, and disapproving of his daughter's forthcoming marriage. Because of this, poor Trotty is thrown into an alternate reality where he has died, his daughter does not marry, and in a butterfly effect a bunch of other terrible things happen to the people he cares about. But Trotty, unlike Scrooge, is a good and kind person at the outset of the story, who goes out of his way to help stranger in need, despite the little he has to share. So I felt Mr. Dickens was rather harsh on him over a wee moment of doubt. Trotty's like Job, but you know, reasonable. It's ok to have a doubt. Also the Chimes, who are goblin-like creatures who live in the bell tower of the church and who send Trotty to this alternate reality are creepy af and also just sort of appear randomly into the story. They feel much more thrown in than the spirits in both the other stories. Also, it takes place on New Year's and not Christmas. In the Haunted Man, it's almost a reversal of A Christmas Carol. Redlaw is a good, kind, man but he is haunted by a spectre that is basically a shadow version of himself, created out of his past regrets and sorrows. It's a gorgeous metaphor for depression. The shadow hovers over him even while he is enjoying the company of his friends. This spectre who is both Redlaw but also not Redlaw, offers him a deal: that he can forget about the sorrows that follow him, and no longer be haunted, but that there will be a cost to this deal (of course!): that he will share this gift with others. Redlaw agrees and his sorrow is taken away, and he can no longer remember the sad events of his past. But! The catch is, he can no longer empathize with others and he becomes a class-A Scrooge-like asshole. Not only that, but he infects others with his assholery, and they become assholes too! Although his remorse is blunted by the state he is in, he still can sense the awfulness of the deal he has made and he begins to try to get rid of this "gift." I thought this story paired beautifully with A Christmas Carol and also that it was relatable for anyone who knows what it's like to be haunted by grief. Like a Christmas Carol, the denouement happens on Christmas day. The other stories were more forgettable to me. The Cricket on the Hearth was a somewhat humourous plot of mistaken identity, though it actually mostly takes place after Christmas. It was ok. The Battle of Life was a kind of a marriage plot where two sisters are in love with the same man, and one sister sacrifices herself for the other's happiness by disappearing so her sister can marry the dude they love. I think it takes place roughly around Christmas but Christmas is not a central theme. Meh.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ben Truong

    Christmas Books is a bind up of all five Christmas novels (A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life, and The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain) written by Charles Dickens. Normally, around this time of the year, I would read A Christmas Tale, but as I saw this particular anthology on my bookshelf waiting to be read, I thought I would give it a go. A Christmas Carol (★★★★★)recounts the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly miser who is visited by the ghost of Christmas Books is a bind up of all five Christmas novels (A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life, and The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain) written by Charles Dickens. Normally, around this time of the year, I would read A Christmas Tale, but as I saw this particular anthology on my bookshelf waiting to be read, I thought I would give it a go. A Christmas Carol (★★★★★)recounts the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly miser who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. After their visits, Scrooge is transformed into a kinder, gentler man. The Chimes (★★★★☆) has Trotty, a poor elderly ticket-porter or casual messenger, is filled with gloom at the reports of crime and immorality in the newspapers, and wonders whether the working classes are simply wicked by nature. His daughter Meg and her long-time fiancé Richard arrive and announce their decision to marry next day. Trotty hides his misgivings, but their happiness is dispelled by an encounter with the pompous Alderman Cute, plus a political economist, and a young gentleman of note, all of whom make Trotty, Meg and Richard feel they hardly have a right to exist, let alone marry. The Cricket on the Hearth (★★★☆☆) has John Peerybingle, a carrier, lives with his young wife Dot, their baby boy, their nanny Tilly Slowboy, and a cricket chirps on the hearth and acts as a guardian angel to the family. One day a mysterious elderly stranger comes to visit and takes up lodging at Peerybingle's house for a few days. The life of the Peerybingles intersects with that of Caleb Plummer, a poor toymaker employed by the miser Mr. Tackleton. Caleb has a blind daughter Bertha, and a son Edward, who travelled to South America and is thought to be dead. The Battle of Life (★★★☆☆) has two sisters, Grace and Marion, live happily in an English village with their two servants, Clemency Newcome and Ben Britain, and their good-natured widower father Dr Jeddler. Dr Jeddler is a man whose philosophy is to treat life as a farce. Marion, the younger sister, is betrothed to Alfred Heathfield, Jeddler's ward who is leaving the village to complete his studies. He entrusts Marion to Grace's care and makes a promise to return to win Marion's hand. The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain (★★★★☆) has Dr. Redlaw is a professor of chemistry who often broods over wrongs done him and grief from his past. He is haunted by a spirit, who is not so much a ghost as Redlaw's phantom twin. This specter appears and proposes to Redlaw that he can allow him to forget the sorrow, wrong, and that trouble him. Redlaw is hesitant at first, but finally agrees, with disastrous results. Christmas Books is written rather well. Dickens has distilled many themes in this anthology and gives them a Christmas twist. The anthology is rather even with A Christmas Carol being the outstanding outlier. The Cricket on the Hearth is an interesting Victorian comedy and The Battle of Life is a romance story and the only one that doesn't have a supernatural tint to it, but they are only mediocre in comparison. The Chimes is an interesting commentary on the poor and The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain is a nice bookend to conclude the Christmas stories as it seems to mirror A Christmas Tale. It is a tad repetitive, where the literary device of a man changing by the power of Christmas is repeated throughout the anthology. All in all, Christmas Books is written rather well and is a wonderful to have all five of Charles Dickens' Christmas stories into one volume. Not sure if I want to read all five stories annually, but A Christmas Carol definitely, as it is a tradition with me – the rest maybe.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Laura (Reading is a Doing Word)

    This book contains a collection of Dickens stories which were written for Christmas release. They are: A Christmas Carol The Chimes The Cricket on the Hearth The Battle of Life The Haunted Man Of course "A Christmas Carol" is so well known and beloved - and for good reason. It's definitely the most vibrant and engaging of the stories in this volume. The Chimes left me a bit cold - the "Punishment" seemed to harsh for the poor folk involved and I hadn't really enough time to sympathise with them. The Cric This book contains a collection of Dickens stories which were written for Christmas release. They are: A Christmas Carol The Chimes The Cricket on the Hearth The Battle of Life The Haunted Man Of course "A Christmas Carol" is so well known and beloved - and for good reason. It's definitely the most vibrant and engaging of the stories in this volume. The Chimes left me a bit cold - the "Punishment" seemed to harsh for the poor folk involved and I hadn't really enough time to sympathise with them. The Cricket on the Hearth was more engaging and promoted kindness and fogiveness but didn't feel very Christmassy. The Battle of Life was engrossing because of the relatioship between two sisters and a bit of a mystery but again -not that Christmassy. The Haunted Man - was the most like A Christmas Carol and I felt the most sympathy for the main character. While "A Christmas Carol" is a classic to be re read again and again - I have no real desire to re-read any of these others. I'm glad to have read them once though!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mitchell Hahn-Branson

    It breaks down like this: A Christmas Carol: 5 stars (Never gets old. I'm not sure how, but it just doesn't.) The Chimes: 4 stars (Very good. Very bleak. Contains goblins.) The Cricket on the Hearth: 5 stars (More popular than Christmas Carol until the turn of the 20th century, for good reason. Saturated with Dickensian sentiment, in the very best way.) The Battle of Life: 2 stars (A strange one. Not quite sure what Dickens was going for here, but he ended up with something atypically messy in tone, It breaks down like this: A Christmas Carol: 5 stars (Never gets old. I'm not sure how, but it just doesn't.) The Chimes: 4 stars (Very good. Very bleak. Contains goblins.) The Cricket on the Hearth: 5 stars (More popular than Christmas Carol until the turn of the 20th century, for good reason. Saturated with Dickensian sentiment, in the very best way.) The Battle of Life: 2 stars (A strange one. Not quite sure what Dickens was going for here, but he ended up with something atypically messy in tone, structure, and character.) The Haunted Man: 4 stars (Another ghost story, fairly entertaining and poignant. Not as effective as Carol and Cricket in washing down the moralistic pill at its center.) Overall, definitely recommended for that time of year. Goes well with fuzzy blankets and hot chocolate or buttered rum.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Yasiru

    To be Dickensian is, once the (albeit crucial) social commentary is discounted, simply put, to be rich (with all the vaguely ironic connotations). Foremost, this means to be rich in detail and occupy such a spectrum that the detail of an individual's anguish or joy or anything in between is never obscured by the vivid and cacophonous gathering or setting he is depicted as either witness to or finding himself a part of, an observer in his own mind if not a stranger. A whole scene can be picked ap To be Dickensian is, once the (albeit crucial) social commentary is discounted, simply put, to be rich (with all the vaguely ironic connotations). Foremost, this means to be rich in detail and occupy such a spectrum that the detail of an individual's anguish or joy or anything in between is never obscured by the vivid and cacophonous gathering or setting he is depicted as either witness to or finding himself a part of, an observer in his own mind if not a stranger. A whole scene can be picked apart in definite and clear threads as easily as that, but the detail of the whole of these parts, afforded us by a narrative voice of no mean judgement, is breathtaking and unforgettable. All this, one finds exemplified in that much beloved tale, A Christmas Carol. The other stories which appear in this volume are approximations to this polished Dickensian ideal, and afford an interesting look into the great author's range over this one subject and contributions to the story form; from the oddity that is The Chimes, to the paradoxical mediocrity of The Battle of Life, to the less sweeping but decently plotted pieces The Cricket on the Hearth and The Haunted Man. There are also a couple of appendices featuring a reading version of A Christmas Carol and an article by Dickens on Christmas. Most, if not all of these stories might be found on Project Gutenberg. I read the Oxford World's Classics edition with original illustrations, reasonable notes and a chronology, but the slightly differently titled Penguin edition which I believe is much the same, 'A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings' comes also in a handsome cloth-bound hardcover.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    "A Christmas Carol" is one of Dickens' most famous novels and by far his most famous Christmas novel. However, he wrote many other Christmas novels that are unfortunately greatly overlooked. This entire collection is worth reading but perhaps my favorite two stories in it were "The Cricket on the Hearth" and "The Haunted Man." Like "A Christmas Carol" all of these novels contain themes of regret and repentance. There is a change in the characters from pride to humility and a recognition that sor "A Christmas Carol" is one of Dickens' most famous novels and by far his most famous Christmas novel. However, he wrote many other Christmas novels that are unfortunately greatly overlooked. This entire collection is worth reading but perhaps my favorite two stories in it were "The Cricket on the Hearth" and "The Haunted Man." Like "A Christmas Carol" all of these novels contain themes of regret and repentance. There is a change in the characters from pride to humility and a recognition that sorrow and trouble in life is not all bad (perhaps seen the most clearly in "The Haunted Man"). Perhaps one of the most thought-provoking lines is from "The Haunted Man" in which, near the end, the loving and kind Milly who has undergone great sorrow in life and yet has learned to embrace it is speaking to Mr. Redlaw (who underwent great sorrow in life and sought to rid himself of it): "May I tell you why it seems to me a good thing for us to remember wrong that has been done us? That we may forgive it." Due to sin there is much wrong, trouble, and sorrow in the world. Yet God has not wiped it out. It is still in the world and through his Son's death and resurrection on the cross, we may forgive it as Christ has forgiven ours.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Dr G

    This has been a laborious read: not a labour of love but a labour of duty. I love Dickens and so I decided I should finally read the complete works, and I would start from his first work and move through in the order in which they were published. So I recently reached the point where Christmas Books was next on the list; he published the works separately between 1843 and 1847 and published them as a collection in 1852. My copy is from the Oxford Illustrated Dickens, a lovely complete works versio This has been a laborious read: not a labour of love but a labour of duty. I love Dickens and so I decided I should finally read the complete works, and I would start from his first work and move through in the order in which they were published. So I recently reached the point where Christmas Books was next on the list; he published the works separately between 1843 and 1847 and published them as a collection in 1852. My copy is from the Oxford Illustrated Dickens, a lovely complete works version. This book comprises five Christmas stories, "A Christmas Carol", "The Chimes", "The Cricket on the Hearth", "The Battle of Life" and "The Haunted Man". "A Christmas Carol" is so well known and the characters and events are so much a part of new western mythology, there is little to say of it. However, I enjoyed Scrooge's discomfort when first confronted by the ghost: “ ‘why do you doubt your senses?’ ‘Because,’ said Scrooge, ‘a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you whatever you are!’ Scrooge was not much in the habit of cracking jokes, nor did he feel, in his heart, by any means waggish then. The truth is, that he tried to be smart, as a means of distracting his own attention, and keeping down his terror; for the spectre’s voice disturbed the very marrow in his bones.” It was probably not wise to tell a ghost it might be "an undigested bit of beef", but I enjoyed it. I felt, however, that the change from the sociable Ebenezer as a young employee, to the morose and miserly Scrooge of the story lacked any credible explanation, and needed one. Finally, while we are aware of the change to Scrooge's outlook at the end of the story, no-one else is, so I felt that the practical joke of telling Cratchit he was fired was implausible. Cratchit would have assumed he was still employed by a morose miser and would have assumed that the dismissal was not unexpected. No doubt relief would have followed, but it was a decidedly cruel trick as it was played, which does not say much for the reformed Scrooge's new level of understanding. "The Chimes" contains some mild social criticism of wealthy individuals who pontificate about what the poor should do and how they should behave: "‘I am the poor man’s friend…I am your perpetual parent…you should feel the Dignity of Labour’’, and there is much talk of the "putting down" of people who have had conflict with the law, with Dickens pointing out, with some family history no doubt in mind, that once a person becomes a victim of the prison system, it is difficult to resume a normal life. (“ ‘see how your laws are made to trap and hunt us when we’re brought to this. I tries to live elsewhere. And I’m a vagabond. To jail with him! I comes back here. I goes a-nutting in your woods, and breaks – who don’t? – a limber branch or two. To jail with him! One of your keepers sees me in the broad day, near my own patch of garden, with a gun. To jail with him! I has a nat’ral angry word with that man, when I’m free again. To jai with him! I cuts a stick. To jail with him! I eats a rotten apple or a turnip. To jail with him. At last, the constable, the keeper – anybody – finds me anywhere, a-doing anything, to jail with him, for he’s a vagrant, and a jail-bird known; and jail’s the only home he’s got.’/ The Alderman nodded sagaciously, as who should say, ‘A very good home too!’”) I enjoyed some fine Dickensian description: “Wet weather was the worst: the cold, damp, clammy wet, that wrapped him up like a moist great-coat – the only kind of great-coat Toby owned, or could have added to his comfort by dispensing with. Wet days, when the rain came slowly, thickly, obstinately down; when the street’s throat, like his own, was choked with mist; when smoking umbrellas passed and re-passed, spinning round and round like so many teetotums, as they knocked each other on the crowded footway, throwing off a little whirlpool of uncomfortable sprinklings; when gutters brawled and waterspouts were full and noisy; when wet from the projecting stones and ledges of the church fell drip, drip, drip, on Toby, making the wisp of straw on which he stood mere mud in no time; those were the days tried him.” Overall, however, I found the story, which looked briefly at a what-if-things-had-been-different scenario, courtesy of some goblins, but then returned to the happy-ever-after conclusion, to be tiresome and pointless. I started to wish Dickens had been readier to recognise some of his work did not warrant publication, rather than meeting a publishing schedule imperative. "The Cricket on the Hearth" thankfully eschews the supernatural, although the plot line of the secret and disguised return of a man supposed to be dead is almost as improbable as interfering ghosts and goblins. The sub-plot of Caleb and his blind daughter Bertha, and Caleb's profound grief over his sugar-coating of his descriptions of their life-style mystified me. "The Battle of Life" is a gentle story about love and self-sacrifice. Its resolution involves a repeat of the device of an expected death turning out to be an error with the corpse returning to participate in the happy-ever-after. In general, it had little to recommend it although the descriptions of the law firm Snitchley and Craggs and its personnel, as well as some of the material in the relationship between Clemency and Benjamin Britten, are indicative of Dickens's writing skill when presenting eccentrics. Dr Jeddler, the philosopher who is bemused by the “preposterous and ridiculous business called Life”, did not engage for me, much as I sympathise with his point of view. Finally, there is "The Haunted Man" which repeats the device of showing errant individuals the prospective dire outcomes of their choices, thus enabling them to see the light and reform their ways. Unfortunately, I found the story confusing, even to the extent that I found it unclear just what heinous error Mr Redlaw was initially committing. I have done my duty and read this work; I shall not do so again, unless I am confronted with it when I am residing in Purgatory.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kerry

    I'm not sure how to rate this since I only read the first of four (five?) stories, A Christmas Carol. I am glad I read that one, though. Although it's such a short "book" (I think it actually qualifies as a novella) that pretty much everything in it is familiar -- all the little details, for example Marley holding his jaw together with a cloth -- from all the various adaptations. It's not like Dune or something where everything is different and you can revel in the differences. Anyway it was okay I'm not sure how to rate this since I only read the first of four (five?) stories, A Christmas Carol. I am glad I read that one, though. Although it's such a short "book" (I think it actually qualifies as a novella) that pretty much everything in it is familiar -- all the little details, for example Marley holding his jaw together with a cloth -- from all the various adaptations. It's not like Dune or something where everything is different and you can revel in the differences. Anyway it was okay. It's funny how he doesn't ever mention Jesus. Religion is not really important in Dickens' Christmas. I saw someone say on the internet the other day that Dickens is the real reason for the season -- we celebrate the way we do because of this story. Is that true? I am not sure! I can see it, though.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    The Christmas Books, while not always being set during the festive season, each exemplify some aspect of the spirit of charity and "goodwill to all men" that Dickens felt so important in the celebration of Christ's birth, and which he did so much to forge into what is now seen as "a traditional Christmas". The Battle of Life: Self-sacrifice and familial love are the messages here. Some wonderfully drawn characters in Clemency Newcome (servant) and Messrs. Snitchey and Craggs (lawyers). Expectatio The Christmas Books, while not always being set during the festive season, each exemplify some aspect of the spirit of charity and "goodwill to all men" that Dickens felt so important in the celebration of Christ's birth, and which he did so much to forge into what is now seen as "a traditional Christmas". The Battle of Life: Self-sacrifice and familial love are the messages here. Some wonderfully drawn characters in Clemency Newcome (servant) and Messrs. Snitchey and Craggs (lawyers). Expectations are nicely confounded in this one. (It had been my intention to write a review of each story as I finished them - clearly that project is 'in progress'. Hopefully, the next time I read them...)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    An annual tradition, and Dickens still speaks, from grave. Marlowe, still, haunts. “A Christmas Carol” ‘s sentiment is sobering reminder not every household is surfeit of Christmas cheer, not everyone, like Scrooge, gets second chance, and not every Tiny Tim surrounded by support. Bah! Humbug! to Bah! Humbug!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    My favorite holiday classic story that I try to read every year.

  30. 4 out of 5

    David Fiore

    Magnificent. I'm particularly fond of "What Christmas Is, As We Grow Older". And, of course, "A Christmas Carol" is one of the greatest prose works in the language. Magnificent. I'm particularly fond of "What Christmas Is, As We Grow Older". And, of course, "A Christmas Carol" is one of the greatest prose works in the language.

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