"Every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding," says Ebenezer Scrooge. Mean old Scrooge despises Christmas until Christmas Eve, when a haunted voice from the past changes his life: overnight! Many know this story but few have experienced the true marvel of the tale.
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More Funny, Scary & Moving than the Movie Versions
Because I have seen so many movie and theater versions of Charles Dickens??? A Christmas Carol (1843), I never felt any need to read it, believing that I knew the story well enough and that anyway it might be too sentimental. But because I like Simon Preble???s voice and manner, when I saw his reading of A Christmas Carol in an Audible sale, I decided to give it a try. So imagine my surprise when I found myself moved to tears several times while listening to the audiobook, something that had never happened during my viewing of various adaptations of it.
Dickens??? story is sentimental and moralistic???but it is also so full of the joy of life, the understanding of human nature, and the pleasure of imagination and language, that even when Tiny Tim leaning on his wee crutch says ???God bless Us, Every One,??? I do not cringe at being served too much sugar. Additionally, Dickens appreciates the replete dinner table, and my mouth watered over the delicious descriptions of different seasonal foods and drink. At the same time he infuses into his story a terrifying yet reassuring spirituality via ghosts, charity, and love. The idea of visiting like a specter key scenes from your past, present, and future wherein you learn truths about yourself that change your life is compelling. And the flame of Dickens??? social conscience flares up during the story.
Simon Preble gives a wonderful reading. He enhances the emotions and personalities of the various characters, bringing them to life???without over-doing it???so that the listening experience is deeply satisfying and moving (even if you already know how it all happily turns out). Preble???s voice is seasoned, somewhat scratchy, and full of skill and wit, a perfect medium for Dickens??? writing.
Try reading aloud this passage introducing Scrooge to the reader!
Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge. A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas.
Hearing those words, how could you not enjoy Dickens??? exuberant conceits about the stingy and frosty Scrooge? How could you imagine that he could ever change? And how, when he does, can it fail to bring satisfied tears of pleasure and conviction to your eyes?
There are many excellent recordings of "A Christmas Carol" on Audible, but after listening and re-listening to them all, I think this is my favorite. (My other two particular favorites are the readings by Anton Lesser and Tim Curry.) This is not only one of the best performances of the story I've heard, it's one of the best performances I've heard from Simon Prebble. He perfectly captures the spirit of the story (not to mention the spirits). Each character has a clearly distinctive voice, and he manages Scrooge's transition from bitter miser to giddy convert with ease. There are so many different moods to convey in this nearly-perfect story: sadness at loss, anger at social injustice, amazement at wonders, boisterous high spirits at Fezziwig's establishment and nephew Fred's house and finally in Scrooge's heart. Simon Prebble nails them all.