I love Charles Dickens. I am an unabashed fan of The Pickwick Papers, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, and A Tale of Two Cities.
In my opinion, no author toiling in the fields of the English language has ever had a better hand at the naming of characters (Uriah Heep, The Artful Dodger, Pip, and the wonderfully named Wackford Squeers). And believe me, that is far, far more difficult that it looks.
His better known tales are so familiar to us, it’s as if we’ve read them—even when we haven’t.
Exhibit A of these circumstances is A Christmas Carol which Dickens published in 1843.
Think about that—this is a story that’s more than 170 years old, that probably most folks have never read, and yet the phrase “Bah, humbug” is a figurative coin of the realm.
And if you call someone a “Scrooge,” we all know what you mean.
I chose this book (novella, really) as my first Book That Enchants because I want to encourage all of you to read the original (which you can do online for free right here.)
I pull this copy off my shelf (wonderfully illustrated by the late Trina Schart Hyman of Lyme, NH) every year about this time so that I can join Ebenezer Scrooge on his voyage of redemption because I like to believe that people can be transformed by the joy of kindness.
This powerful story is full of the imagery that has become our traditional view of Christmas with its evergreen trees and feasting and presents and families together. Some literary observers have said that in A Christmas Carol, Dickens invented the holiday.
This also being the season of food, allow me to share a short passage from the moment when the Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge into the streets of London just as the stores are closing. Read this out loud and I’ll almost guarantee your mouth with water.
“It was not alone that the scales descending on the counter made a merry sound, or that the twine and roller parted company so briskly, or that the canisters were rattled up and down like juggling tricks, or even that the blended scents of tea and coffee were so grateful to the nose, or even that the raisins were so plentiful and rare, the almonds so extremely white, the sticks of cinnamon so long and straight, the other spices so delicious, the candied fruits so caked and spotted with molten sugar as to make the coldest lookers-on feel faint and subsequently bilious. Nor was it that the figs were moist and pulpy, or that the French plums blushed in modest tartness from their highly-decorated boxes, or that everything was good to eat and in its Christmas dress: but the customers were all so hurried and so eager in the hopeful promise of the day…”
Several people have chimed in with their favorite Books That Enchant and it’s going to be a long and lovely list. Want to join in? Please add your favorite Books Than Enchant in the comments and if you want to do the blog post about it, I’ll be more than happy to put it right here.