Bah! Humbug! A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens narrated by Patrick Stewart

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…ah, yes, Dickens truly understood the meaning of Christmas! So in the lead up to that wonderful season of conspicuous spending, gross commercialism, gluttony, over-indulgence and family feuds, I say along with The Great Man himself – Bah! Humbug! (I’ve always loved humbugs, don’t you?)

humbugs

Scientific tests (carried out by yours truly) have shown that the only way to survive the approaching Season of Goodwill with anything approaching the requisite amount of jolliness is to cut off all contact with the outside world for a while and curl up with a good Dickens (and a box of chocolates, of course). Then, when Santa suddenly arrives down the chimney, you should be able to offer him a glass of sherry and a mince pie with not just equanimity but actual joie de vivre!

So here goes for the first instalment of…

Have a Dickens of a Christmas!

 

mr fezziwig's ball

* * * * * * * * *

A Christmas Carol narrated by Patrick Stewart

 

santasantasantasantasanta

 

 

a christmas carol

I had the great privilege some years ago of seeing Patrick Stewart’s one-man show of A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic theatre in London – one of the theatrical highlights of my life. At the time I was aware of him as Jean-Luc Picard of the Star Ship Enterprise and knew that he’d been a ‘proper’ Shakespearian actor before that. But seeing him perform Dickens’ wonderful story live was a revelation. This audio version is based on that performance.

“They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing.”

A Christmas Carol must surely rate as the best ghost story of all time, and be on the shortlist at least for best short story. Dickens’ exuberant and larger-than-life style is perfectly suited to a tale of this nature, and it in turn is perfectly suited to the message of Christmas. We see Scrooge first as a mean and miserly old man, measuring out his clerk’s coal and objecting to losing a day’s work for Christmas. Our introduction to the ghost of Marley is truly scary – the clanking chains, the face on the door-knocker, the chimes of the clock; and who can forget the gaping jaw as Marley removes the kerchief tied around his head? The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come lead us through a turmoil of emotions as we see the lonely little boy, the young man who lost his one love, the gradual sinking into loneliness and miserliness, and the horror of what might be to come. But Dickens does redemption like no-one else, and he leads us away from the despair of Ignorance and Want towards a joyous and uplifting ending, where Scrooge gains his salvation through learning that to give to those less fortunate than himself brings him the pleasure and happiness he had forgotten could exist.

patrick stewart as scrooge

Stewart’s performance is superb. There’s no music, no sound-effects – he performs the whole thing completely with his voice, creating different personas for each character, each fully realised and totally individual. It is his voice that gives us the bells, the chimes of the clock – it’s through his voice that we hear the fear, the horror, the hope and finally the wondrous joy. When Scrooge learns to laugh at the end, I defy anyone not to laugh with him. When he sings a Christmas carol for the first time in years we hear his voice go through the stages from creaky and rusty to a full-scale boisterous bellow. And when he gives us Dickens’ last sugary-sweet line, he makes it so tender that even the cliché becomes truly moving.

This is an abridged version, running at just under two hours, but it’s so skilfully done I’m never really aware of what’s missing. It’s a once a year must-listen for me and I love it just as much each time. A masterly performance of a masterpiece, and guaranteed to boost your festive stock of goodwill to all men. Have a Dickens of a Christmas!

“…and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!”

Amazon UK Link
Audible UK Link
Amazon US Link
Audible US Link

31 thoughts on “Bah! Humbug! A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens narrated by Patrick Stewart

  1. Sorry, just realised in keeping with the spirit of the piece, this should have read

    A fabulous- hic,-crunch, fabulous-hic-crunch,fabulous-hic-crunch,fabulous-hic-crunch,fabulous-hic-crunch, review!

    • Haha! I thought that initial response seemed a bit restrained for you! I know you’re not a big fan of audiobooks but honestly this one is great – and just long enough to listen to whilst baking the Christmas Cake…

  2. Love this review – A Christmas Carol is my must-have Christmas Eve read – maybe this year I’ll listen to this instead. It would fit in nicely between making the mince pies and stuffing the turkey.
    Humbugs are good too!

  3. 😆 😆 Maybe FEF needs a ghostly visit or two? (In fact, the professor hasn’t ever heard of a humbug. Are they tasty?)

    I love the Santa smileys. Your review made the professor want to read it again–and maybe even give it a listen! In truth, a fantastic review.

    • 😆 It takes a whole lot of Dickens to get me in the mood for Christmas, but generally speaking I get there in the end! Humbugs are delicious – especially the mint ones.

      Do listen to this if you get the chance – it’s wonderful! (You can get an Audible app for the Mac, you know…).

      Thank you! 😀

      • Well, it’s still kind of early for Christmas, so you have time to prepare. Humbugs…what a strange name for a piece of candy!

        But is it better than George C. Scott’s Christmas Carol? (I did not know! How do you go about such a thing?)

        • Prepare? Oh that would spoil all the fun! Candy…what a strange name for humbugs!

          D’you know, I don’t think I’ve ever watched that. Fabulous cast list though! And on youtube…this will definitely be added to my seasonal watchlist this year. Thank you! (Bet it’s not as good as the Patrick Stewart version though…)

          • I’m not sure what to say to you anymore! Dadblameit, dadblameit, dadblameit!

            Seriously? Great actor. If you like comedies, check out Dr. Strangelove. (It’s way better, and the professor’s knows because he’s seen both. I fear PS is way overrated.)

            • Eh? What on earth have I done now?

              Ah well, perhaps you shouldn’t listen to this then. I keep forgetting that if I rave about something, the Professor will inevitably hate it. 😉

  4. FictionFan – Humbug indeed! This is truly one of those classic ghost stories, and I can’t think of a better narrator than Stewart for the story. He really can be spellbinding. In fact, once my daughter had as a gift a CD of Stewart narrating Peter and the Wolf. We were both so drawn in! Anyway, yes, whether we like it or not, ’tis getting close to that time of year. And this is the pick of the holiday-stories litter I think.

    • Oh, I must see if I can get hold of the ‘Peter and the Wolf’ one. Patrick Stewart is a wonderful actor and his voice is perfect for narration, isn’t it? Yes, no Christmas would be complete without at least one version of ‘A Christmas Carol’. 🙂

  5. Pat Stewart is is simply wonderful. I have been watching him on stage since I was a teenager (1967 was the first time) and have always known him to be one of truly great character actors. I’ve also had the pleasure of attending several talks he’s given and he comes over as a really nice person too. Nothing he does would fail to please me.

  6. I read A Christmas Carol every year (although it is too early yet 😉 ) but maybe this year I should swap it about and have it read to me! It does have to be one of the best stories of all time and I’m sure Patrick Stewart does a wonderful job as I think he’s brilliant. I’ll buy some humbugs especially for the occasion too.

    • I was thinking while listening to this the other night that it really is what ‘family listening’ is all about – suitable for children, yes, but totally suitable for ‘grown-ups’ too. I hope you all enjoy it! Do let me know what you think of it. 🙂

  7. However – I don’t like humbugs. ONLY chocolate please, the idea of sugar candies goes (in my mind) hand in glove (or perhaps i should say peg in socket) with dental cavities – bring on that other actor , Sir Larry, in Marathon Man Is it safe? Is it Safe? and I defy anyone to suck on a hard and sugary sweet again without Sir Larry with Dustin Hoffmann in agony in the dentists chair, playing away in the memory!

    Or there is always this! : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOtMizMQ6oM

Please leave a comment - I'd love to know who's visiting and what you think...of the post, of the book, of the blog, of life, of chocolate...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s