Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirit by Les Standiford

As uplifting as the tale of Scrooge itself, this is the story of how one writer and one book revived the signal holiday of the Western world.

Just before Christmas in 1843, a debt-ridden and dispirited Charles Dickens wrote a small book he hoped would keep his creditors at bay. His publisher turned it down, so Dickens used what little money he had to put out A Christmas Carol himself. He worried it might be the end of his career as a novelist.

The book immediately caused a sensation. And it breathed new life into a holiday that had fallen into disfavor, undermined by lingering Puritanism and the cold modernity of the Industrial Revolution. It was a harsh and dreary age, in desperate need of spiritual renewal, ready to embrace a book that ended with blessings for one and all.

With warmth, wit, and an infusion of Christmas cheer, Les Standiford whisks us back to Victorian England, its most beloved storyteller, and the birth of the Christmas we know best. The Man Who Invented Christmas is a rich and satisfying read for Scrooges and sentimentalists alike.
I have always been a big fan of Charles Dickens. Over the years I have read several of his books, but it has been a while. When I saw that this book was available, though, I knew I had to remedy my not having read him in a while and see what Standiford had to say about one of my favourite Christmas books of all time, A Christmas Carol. I really only know the basics about Dickens life, so it was interesting to get a more detailed look at what his career was like before and after this novel. I think we should be glad that this book was such a success for its time, because if it wasn't, we probably wouldn't have got all the great books that came after it.

Standiford looks at what Dickens early childhood was like and the struggles that his family went through just to pay the bills. As a result of his father not being able to keep up with things, Dickens childhood ended very early and he found himself working to keep the family afloat. So, to become an author after struggling your entire life just to eat was a very brave thing. While he doesn't go into detail, Standiford talks about the early books and their impact. He looks at what Dickens thought of America when he came here on a book tour. The big subject matter, though, is how he was floundering until he decided to write this little Christmas story. While A Christmas Carol was popular and sold very well, though, it did not solve all of Dickens problems. It just brought him the recognition he needed to be able to slowly pull himself out of debt.

The rest of the book is dedicated to what life was like for Dickens after the book was released. It mentions three other 'Christmas' books that I had never read before. I always thought that he only had the one Christmas book, and he technically did. The others were released around Christmas, but did not actually have Christmas in them. I am the first to admit that classic literature is not really my thing. Just because it is a classic and everyone should read it, doesn't mean that I will like it. Dickens, though, is one of those exceptions where I have always enjoyed what I have read, so it was worth it to give this book a chance and see more about the person behind these great novels.

My thanks to Random House for sending me a copy of this book!


  1. This sounds so interesting! I love A Christmas Carol too, and would love to read more about its writing and Dicken's life before and after. Thanks for the review!

  2. I hope you get a chance to read it and enjoy it Nymeth!

  3. I'm definitely getting this one! Dickens is one of my few exceptions too when it comes to classical lit. I'm really not a big fan of most of it, but I fell in love with Dickens after reading A Tale of Two Cities in 8th grade. This one sounds awesome!

  4. Dickens is great! I hope you get a chance to read this book. :)

  5. How interesting! I was just watching "A Christmas Carol" last night and thinking about Dickens' was trying to get at when he published it. It seems like he was very concerned about pointing out the extreme differences between rich and poor


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