Christmas Frippery at its Finest

Mr. Dickens and His Carol, by Samantha Silva

“Such dinings, such dancings, such conjurings, such blind-man’s-bluffings, such theatre-goings, such kissings-out of old years and kissings-in of new ones, never took place in these parts before.”

I must provide full disclosure: I am writing this post after the most quintessential Christmas weekends, and am feeling a warm glow inside that will colour everything I write. There were European Christmas markets, done up in all the twinkling lights you could possibly want, skaters twirling around under the starlight and vin chaud to warm our hands. We went out as a family and found our Sapin de Noel, and spent the afternoon decorating it until our house resembles nothing less than a gingerbread house. We had good friends over for a heartwarming meal. Cookies were made with the “help” of the kids. Basically, my life this weekend is a Rockwell painting.

So when I write about a book which is written about the book about Christmas, it is with the spirit of Christmas nestled firmly in my heart. I liked the book very much, as I was meant to. It is about Charles Dickens who has his own Scrooge experience and must dive deep into his past and present in order to rediscover the joy of the season. The book follows the path of A Christmas Carol, and as such is sweet and poignant.

Now it must be said that Dickens is a bit of a Dick in this book. I think he might be quite worse than Scrooge, as while Scrooge is described as a miser, we’re never really shown his cold-heartedness – the whole book is rather about his salvation. In Mr. Dickens, we watch as Dickens devolves into his worse self. I mean, he has an emotional affair with someone else while his wife is suffering from post-partum depression after bearing his sixth child. I believe the only reason the affair was not consummated was for reasons that become clear but shall not be revealed here so as to avoid spoilers. Let it be said that I struggled to sympathize with him. I realize this was the point, but it was hard to feel warmhearted about his constant whinging. Until, of course, the redemptive ending, which I waited a very long time to reach, but predictively left me sobbing, because that is what I do.

“Then, filled with the dearness of her simple carol, he bade mother and son a silent goodbye, and left, along, to finish where he’d begun.”

I’ve come to realize that my unabashed love of Charles Dickens’ work comes from his sentimentality, which meshes well with my sentimentality and almost always leaves me blinking back tears at least once. Usually more.

When I finished Mr. Dickens I had to go and reread the original. A Christmas Carol is beloved for a reason. I am very happy that Silva wrote her book, which is essentially a love letter to Dickens and his work. But let there be no mistake. Mr. Dickens is no Christmas Carol, as nothing can touch the sweet charm of that book.

I’ve been thinking about this, and I realize that Dickens created or established Christmas as it is today, with all the decorations, the cards, the carolling, the sleigh rides, the gift-giving, the endless buying. I’m not mad about this, even if A Christmas Carol had been written entirely for commercial purposes. Why should that matter? Many good things have come from commercial intent. Like … all of society. Dickens also gave us the very concept of Christmas spirit, and it does warm the heart. Listen to carols on a snow-swept street and tell me it doesn’t hit you in the cockles. Besides, I believe that people are kinder at Christmas.

“Mankind was my business. The common welfare was by business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business.”

So unless you live in a cave in the woods, or are a real life (pre-haunting) Scrooge, Mr. Dickens is intended to be enjoyed with the utmost pleasure. Revel in this one!