A Christmas Carol
By Charles Dickens
Published by Listening Library
Read by Jim Dale
It is hard to believe that anyone in the English-speaking world has never either read, listened to or seen at least two printings, recordings, movies or TV specials of this story. Even if they somehow missed the Mister Magoo or Scrooge McDuck versions, this story has been ripped off and parodied on almost every TV sitcom that ever lived to air a Christmas episode – the remaining such shows having stolen from It’s a Wonderful Life or both. So it was with some hesitation that I decided to listen to this story, but then I saw that it was read by Jim Dale and all hesitation melted away.
Okay, on the off-chance that someone has no idea what this story is about, it is the tale of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, how he became the bitter old man found at the start of the story and how he is changed through the intervention of the ghost of his one-time business partner and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. He journeys with the spirits to Christmases in his past which were originally times of great joy but as time went on accompanied his greatest sadnesses and disappointments, to the homes of people in his present and how they are celebrating the holiday and into the future in which he discovers his own fate should he not change in time.
The story was received with great acclaim, although it did not make as much money for Dickens as he would have liked, and has been attributed to popularizing the phrase “Merry Christmas,” as well as adding “Scrooge” and “Bah! Humbug!” to the English language. It has been credited with having a major influence on the observance of Christmas as it is practiced today. Not bad for six week’s work!
I have already given away my preconceptions of how I expected to enjoy this reading by Jim Dale. I am happy to report that I was not disappointed in the least. Once again the guy who these days is perhaps best known for his narration of Bryan Fuller’s Pushing Daisies and the reading of the American version of the Harry Potter books, turned in a delightful to listen to performance.
I would not go so far as to say Mister Dale is the only actor who could read this book for there have been many heart-warming renditions, but this one by Mister Dale is the only one I have heard since reaching adulthood that I truly enjoyed. He gave just the right voice to each of the characters as only a vocal master can.
So, while the story may be so well-known as to seem sappy and time-worn, Jim Dale will remind you of why A Christmas Carol is one of the all-time favorite holiday stories.