The ghost of Christmas past

A very Happy Christmas to Bookhounders, readers and bloggers everywhere. I'm sure that I'm one of many millions of readers who likes to read something suitably seasonal at this time of year; and also, in common with many, I turn to Dickens' A Christmas carol. This year, as Christmas carol was the only one of the Christmas books I wanted to read, I turned to my father's old 1920's childrens' edition.

Christmas carol is the only book belonging to my father that I own, and it was the only book from his childhood that survived into adulthood - he came back from the Second World War to discover that his father had sold all his books (Don't ask - my grandfather was distinctly odd).

This particular edition to me is a sort of talisman of happiness. For most people music and scents bring back memories of other times and places. For booklovers, I think there is a third entryway to memory - books. If Claudine goes to school still ushers up the scent of cheese and the excitement of travelling across Europe, and News from Tartary reminds me of a frozen young woman in a snowbound Paddington Station hoping she's going to get home that night, this edition of A Christmas carol makes me think of home, of Christmas trees decorated with trumpets and baubles, of singing along to Bohemian Rhapsody and being amazed by that video on the Christmas edition of Top of the Pops, of a young labrador charging at a Christmas tree, and most of all of Mum and Dad. Dad clinically checking the Christmas cake to make sure it was cooked to perfection, while Mum raced round buying sugared mice and other goodies, and was completely caught up in the wonder of Christmas.

Both are now long dead, but that's what this book does for me. It does in fact exactly what Dickens intended, it conjures up the very best of the spirit of Christmas. It also does what the author of the preface to this volume said it would do. This short novel was my introduction to Dickens, and to Wilkie Collins, Trollope, the Brontes, Defoe, and Dostoevsky. It was what made me realise that "classic" fiction wasn't scary fiction.

I think I first read A Christmas carol when I was about 6 years old. 90 pages that have actually been quite an influence on the rest of my life. A very Merry Christmas to you all.


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