Charles Dickens died this days, on June 9 1870.
And in this occasion it's a great pleasure for me to review A Christmas Carol published by Candlewick and illustrated by P. J. Lynch.
It's a story of redemption and of a soul, a lost soul saved thanks to the help of four spirits the one told wonderfully well by the big Victorian novelist.
I consider this one the most powerful Christmas' novel existing in this world and written by a divinely inspired Dickens as Dante did with his Comedia.
I reread this story every year once or two times, and trust me it's a balm for the soul.
The emotions, always the old, strong ones of the first time I read it.
I cry in precise moments of this moving, amazing story each time and I feel joy and sentiment of triumph when the story moves to a wonderful unexpected, beautiful conclusion.
Ebenezer Scrooge is a business man and what it counts the most to him is money.
Because of his avarice his heart became terribly hard and closed to everyone.
He doesn't live well at all, he makes constant sacrifices, keeping cold also his workplace the firm he owns "The Scrooge and Marley" one.
Of course being so cruel with himself he doesn't permit to the other people close to him to stay well, as well.
The opposite: Scrooge asks sacrifices to his clerk Bob Cratchit, avoiding him to add more coal at the fireplace, just in case.
Being Christmas's Eve the city of London is in ferment and that day keep busy a very irritated Scrooge.
His nephew Fred wanted to invite him for Christmas dinner, but Scrooge is pretty rude with his nephew, then two people asked for charity and sent to hell by Scrooge, then his own worker asking for a day off: the Christmas Day.
What a waste of time this celebration! think Scrooge upset with the world.
Not tired of being a solitary human being, he also send to hell a kid who wanted to help him when he fell because of snow-ice.
Thinking of course that being helped by the kid would have meant paying for it and not considering that the kid was simply gentle with a man in difficulty. Not everyone counts every action like Scrooge does with money.
At the end of a day after a meal spent in his favorite tavern all alone reading newsmagazines for free, he return home.
There, the spirit of Marley was waiting for him for presenting him the biggest gift he could have received in his life: the last chance for saving his life and...afterlife for better.
In this sense Scrooge has been a privilege because not everyone are advised so well of their bad behavior.
Marley's face was in the knocker of the door at first.
Scrooge is scared. No possible: Marley's face in that place...No, no, its no possible. Marley was dead he remembers it very well.
Once home he tries to see if for case there is something unusual in the house, thinking at some bad ingestion.
But strange sounds always more audible surrounds him 'till at the moment of the manifestation of Marley's spirit.
He was wearing a big chain.
All the good actions not done in his entire life, all his sins, were following him in this eternal prison and afterlife for reminding him of his absurd past life on Earth and keeping him into a darkness without peace and plenty of remorse.
But Marley doesn't want the same for Scrooge.
"You can still save your life, you can save you soul" he says him.
There is too much sufferance remembering what we could have done and what we haven't done for egoism.
Marley tells him that after his visit he will receive the visit of other three spirits: the spirit of the past Christmases, the spirit of the actual Christmas and the spirit of the future Christmases, so still in the shadows...
When Scrooge is left by Marley he notices that a lot of other business men close to him without peace and in the same Marley's condition. They were all crying in the darkness of the sky. "I knew most of them..." thinks a shocked Scrooge.
The first spirit of Christmas appear and bring back to the past Scrooge. Since he was little Ebenezer was a bit solitary and melancholic. Scrooge growing up had a fiancee and worked with a very good man who loved to give to him and Dick the other worker free time for celebrating Christmas and for enjoying life.
This man Fezziwig was a sunny man someone who wouldn't never have wanted to keep his workers in a miserable state.
But then, with the time Scrooge changed.
His avidity created a darkest heart unrecognizable by the same fiance who, one day decided to break up her relationship with him. She wasn't anymore important to him, money became his real love and she couldn't cope anymore with it.
These terrible memories moved Scrooge so badly. Once abandoned by this first spirit, the appearance of Christmas Present. A big, giant spirit with a sunny smile and abundant, because Christmas is this and more as well, warm and ready to guiding Scrooge through the various London's streets during this Christmas' Day.
Although Scrooge knows various people he doesn't know anything of their life.
They will stop by at his nephew's house, where Scrooge's nephew will tell the anecdotes of the previous days to the various people joined him and his wife for celebrating Christmas and although his wife not so indulgent with Scrooge he wishes all the best to this strange, avid and hard uncle.
After all he is his uncle.
But it's the house of Bob Cratchit, the biggest revelation for Scrooge.
A poor house with poor food, Little Tiny Tim is the kid of Bob with more problematics and he should be cured for surviving.
Unfortunately Bob's pay can't help too much.
Scrooge didn't know all of it but maybe also if he would have known it in the past, he wouldn't have cared at all.
Scrooge wants to know considering the condition of this kid if he will survive, but the spirit is hopeless.
IF things won't change: "I see a vacant seat in the poor chimney-corner, and a cratch without an owner, carefully preserved.
If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die."
Dickens can sees something precious, a great lesson in the family of Cratchit. They aren't rich, they are pretty poor, their shoes aren't beauty, their clothes aren't great at all of them all enjoyed to stay all together in peace.
The last of the three spirits will bring Scrooge in a darkest future where someone dies without to be at all mourned.
Tiny Tim gone, Mrs Dilber and her behavior...
His so-called business friends all happy for the departure of this man...
Possible that a dead man is so hated and so unwanted by anyone? Not cried by anyone? Who is this ugly man?
Why the passage on this Earth was so disgusting?
He asks who this man is and the spirits materializing the cemetery where he is bury him point his finger on a grave: Ebenezer Scrooge.
Oh God, no! It's him!
It can't be possible.
His life has been a failure.
He asks for being forgiving.
Ebenezer asks for a change.
And then all the spirits gone.
When he get up he is a new man.
He asks to a kid what day it is and the kid tells him that it is Christmas.
From there Scrooge's behavior change drastically.
He doesn't mind after all if what he has seen real or fruit of hallucinations.
If these four spirits visited him or he lived just a strange episode.
He understands that life is too precious for living apart.
He understands that sharing and being a good friends and worker and uncle and relative is important.
He understand that being kind, generous, lovely is the key for reaching every person and every heart.
He understand that changing is possible and he wants to start immediately presenting the biggest turkey at his clerk Bob and family, accepting the invite of Fred for Christmas' dinner. The one of many other ones.
The day after Christmas, he waits with a strange patience the arrival of Bob at work. Bob is late. In the past this behavior would have irritated him or maybe he would have fired Bob.
But this Scrooge is another person.
He tell him immediately that he wants to increase his salary. He also promises to help his family and Tiny Tim who as Dickens wrote did NOT die!
Scrooge becomes for this kid like a second dad.
No one understood what happened to Scrooge.
Scrooge was not anymore visited by any other spirits but lived saintly every day and every Christmas as the best man in the world and it made the difference.
There is nothing to do: at this point you must just start to crying for the powerful message launched by Dickens.
This edition of A Christmas Carol has been illustrated by P. J. Lynch.
Warm, stunning illustrations at first Scrooge is portrayed like an old very mean man, diffident also with his own shadow and folded in himself.
A strange man because he choose to live isolated by everyone and to become who became with the time.
From a sunny normal boy, maybe a bit introverted when he was a kid to a very hard man.
Lunch captured very well the expression of stingy people.
The contracted face, as if he would be diffident also at the idea of giving out his breath just in case...
It seems to stay in London thanks to Lynch.
In particular in the illustration of Scrooge sending to hell the little boy, the contrast between the hard face and behavior of Scrooge with the rest of the scene and illustration, where the warm of candles and lampions keeps the city electrified and joyous for the arrival of Christmas with abundance of food, like ham and other seasons fruits and a joyous atmosphere.
London is portrayed as a warm city when in company, like an obscure city when a person decides to stay alone, alienated by all the rest of people.
I loved the illustration of Scrooge looking at the mirror the Christmas' day.
That one is such a weird smile for someone like him unable to smiling. Ebenezer feel joy, because he is still in grade to change his last, last page of his existence.
The predominant color of these illustration is yellow the color of light, of candles and the color not just of physical lights, the one of candles and streetlights but of interior light in grade to give to all of us the sense of life. When we don't see our own inner light anymore we are lost as Scrooge was.
To Scrooge seeing this light again meant like to be re-born.
To be conscious of what it means the meaning of life the most beautiful gift received.
It meant to him to re-born a second time but with a different conscience.
The conscience that we can't destroy our life for living selfishly and that inclusion, altruism, joy, happiness and sharing and a generous attitude are not weak words but the engine of a wonderful, plenty and well spent existence.
Living well is not just important but indispensible so that once dead someone will remember the passage of our existence.
The joy proved later by Scrooge I just imagine was immense because changing in better the existence of people close to him is priceless and a great satisfaction for sure.
It's a novel this one I suggest warmly to everyone.
It can still be spring/summer time but there is not an iconic moment when to read this novel and let's remember that each of us can change and each of us can become a better man or a better woman imagining what it would happen if we would be visited by four spirits.
I thank P. J. Lynch and Candlewick Press for the physical copy of this precious, wonderful book.
Anna Maria Polidori