“A Christmas Carol” has always been my favourite story of the holidays and I always revisit it at this time of year. Luckily, there are many versions of it available at the library, both in print and audio-visual format, to choose from.
Dickens wrote the original tale in 1843, and it was instrumental in revitalising some of the traditions of Christmas that have endured to this day: the Christmas tree, Christmas carols, and giving gifts (though it was often reserved for New Year’s Eve). Many adaptations have been made of the story for television and cinema, and one can find distinct qualities to recommend each of them, though the one starring Patrick Stewart is one of my favourites for its especially strong acting. The 1984 version, with George C. Scott has a great Scrooge, is probably the most faithful re-telling of the original book and has gorgeous sets.
But one can’t help but wonder at the end of the “A Christmas Carol”, whatever happens to Tiny Tim? Well, author Louis Bayard has written a sequel answering this question entitled “Mr. Timothy”, though it is no longer a Christmas story. We are introduced to the now-adult character of Timothy Cratchit in 1860’s London, who is trying to make a life for himself under difficult conditions -but with the continued help of “Uncle” Ebenezer. The tale turns into a thriller when Tim is thrown into the role of protector of a homeless girl and, with the help of colorful allies, investigates what could be a series of child murders.
“A Christmas Carol” introduced the immortal Ebenezer Scrooge into our collective consciousness: a miser whose hardened heart makes him loathe Christmas, until the spirit of his former business partner and the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future help to rekindle his charity and compassion toward his fellow man.
Despite this positive change in the character in the story, the term “Scrooge” is still known in our language as a symbol of cupidity and “humbugging” toward the holiday season. Some have embraced this rejection and what they see as the negative aspects of the Christmas season. If this fits your own mood this season, those titles could be for you.
“Skipping Christmas” by John Grisham is a humourous take on the phenomenon of people deciding to “skip” Christmas, and the equally humourous reaction of the people close to them. When Mr. and Mrs. Krank decide to go on a Caribbean vacation on December 25th (while still saving money from Christmas-related expenses!) they quickly realize that their “rebellion” is not only frowned upon by their neighbours and relatives, but is actively resisted. Like it was up to them whether to celebrate the holidays or not, right! Wackiness ensues.
On the other hand, there are stories where the protagonists attempt to save Christmas from various scrooges, including (remarkably) Christmas mystery novels. In Joanne Fluke’s Plum Pudding Murder, series’ heroine, bakery owner Hannah Swensen must must solve the murder of the owner of the local Christmas tree lot. As always with the author’s series, this book is recommended for those who appreciate good food and the art of making it.
Busy Body: An Agatha Raisin Mystery by M. C. Beaton is another Christmas murder investigation story, this time around the death of a would-be scrooge who tried to ban Christmas decorations in Agatha’s town on health and safety grounds, arousing the outrage of its citizens. But was this the motive for his murder? And if so, how can one find the guilty party with so many potential suspects?
If you are in the mood for a more modern (and way more cynical) re-telling of the Scrooge story, “A Christmas Caroline” by Kyle Smith is exactly that. Think a of a mix of Dickens’ novel and “The Devil Wears Prada“, where a selfish woman working at a fashion magazine is taught the true meaning of Christmas by three mysterious visitors.
This final mention could be of interest to the non-fiction fan. I have noticed a recent trend in self-help books where they are using famous great men and women as models, often taking their own quotes and maxims and using them as advice in various aspects of life. Winston Churchill, for example, has been used as an inspiration for business leadership. In this same spirit, a book entitled “The financial wisdom of Ebenezer Scrooge : 5 principles to transform your relationship with money” was written about our relationship with money. It is available at the library, though I confess to not having read it.
With this, all that remains for me is to wish you all Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!