Audio Book Review – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – Narrated by Chandler Craig

  A Delightful Treat for the Season

I have never reviewed an audiobook before. I am proud to make Chandler Craig’s narration of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, my first official audiobook review.

Knowing that some may not read the entire review, let me get the most important nugget out up front. Chandler Craig’s Narration is superb! More on that later, but do yourself a favor and pick up this delightful treat for the holiday season. Really. Do it! … Now! … Here’s the link again… Click Here.

Okay, with that important bit of encouragement out of the way, on with the review. As a point of disclosure, I received no monetary or other compensation in exchange for the review. I was offered a link to download the audiobook at no cost, which I appreciate, but which had no bearing on the review content. As always, my responsibility is to readers, and in this case, listeners.

In truth, I approached this review hesitantly at first. Audiobooks are not my customary reading format. I was a bit concerned that my native reticence about audiobooks might intervene and unjustly prejudice the review. Happily, such was not the case. One listen to the Audio Sample was enough to convince me that this was an assignment I could embrace wholeheartedly.

Two Masters Unite

So let’s get to it. First, in reviewing an audiobook there are two elements to consider, the actual book content, and the narrative presentation. In this case, the story is so well-known that an analysis of the plot seems unnecessary.

In the words of the original title published in December 1843, the book is “A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas”. In the unlikely event that someone today is not familiar with the plot, here’s a quick summary.

A miserly moneychanger, Ebenezer Scrooge, is visited by the ghost of his former partner, Jacob Marley and then on successive nights by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. As he travels through time visiting Christmases past, present, and future, Scrooge becomes aware of the narrow baseness of his own character. He seizes the opportunity to change himself and avoid the eternal chains of bondage that the ghost of Marley warns him about, and the “ghost” story ends on a positive note with a reformed Scrooge and the terrible events foreshadowed by the Ghost of Christmases to Come, negated by the changes in him.

It’s a wonderful story. There is a reason Charles Dickens is considered a 19th-century master. His ability to combine wry, satirical humor and colloquialisms of the day with elegant prose separates him from the crowd. Few, if any, can rival his ability to place the reader in the shoes of the common man in one paragraph, smoothly transitioning you to the drawing rooms of the rich in the next.

In an audiobook, the telling of the story, the interpretation of the prose into voice is the critical element to its believability. If I were to sit in front of you and read the story, I am certain that the room would empty within seconds of the opening paragraph.

Enter Chandler Craig. He too is a master. The vocal interpretations of each character is superb. There is no lag as he transforms from one instant to the next between, Scrooge, Marley, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, Nephew Fred, Sister Fran, Love Interest Belle, Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig … and the list goes on.

Craig embraces these characters, becomes these characters, slipping so easily from one to the next in each passage that there are never any moments of doubt. You listen enthralled, smiling at one moment, eyes moist with tears the next.

Chandler Craig Evokes the Poignancy of the Tale

Through Craig’s performance, you feel the warm, strong hand of Christmas Past on young Ebenezer’s shoulder, alone at Christmas, immersed in books with his only friends, Ali Baba and Robinson Crusoe. At these moments, Dickens offers a tender look at the innocent, solitary boy, and we feel the pain of young Ebenezer who later becomes the miser. Our sympathy for his lonely life exposes us to the loneliness we each have felt at times.

Regarding the story itself, Scrooge often is assumed to be an inherently miserly, cold-hearted man, who is forced to repent of his evil ways by the visitation of the ghosts. Personally, I don’t think that was Dickens’ intent.

There is empathy in the story for young Ebenezer, a sad poignant feeling of lost innocence. Through the device of the ghostly visits, Dickens shows us Scrooge not as an evil man, but a fallen one. Despite Marley’s warning, threat even, that Scrooge will walk the earth for eternity bound in the chains of his own forging, we see that the apparitions’ visits are more a reminder of what he could have been and of his lost innocence.

They don’t force him to change his ways. Their visits remind him of his humanity, surrounded by the bitterness he allowed to grow inside and fed by his life experience and loneliness. His evolution during the visits recalls his decency and humanity. The visits do not create something that never existed.

In the end, Scrooge is us and we are him. Dickens reminds us all of our basic humanity and tendency to lose it.

Chandler Craig does more than portray Scrooge in the usual comic book, adapted for animation way, as most do. Craig’s portrayal takes us into his humanity. The story takes on a deeper meaning with the realization that Scrooge and we are ultimately the same, struggling, sometimes failing, to retain what is good in us.

Add to that performance his ability to pull out the humor from the prose as in Dickens’ almost whimsical, tongue in cheek opening paragraphs:

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will, therefore, permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Craig nails this bit of Dickensian anecdotal humor, and there are many others scattered through the book.

You can almost hear and see Dickens chuckling to himself as he points out the inconsistency in the simile and then shrugging it off with a final ironic and self-deprecating remark, pointing to the wisdom of the ancestors standing firm and that Dickens would not disturb it or “the Country’s done for.”

As an aside, Dickens supplemented his income for many years through performance readings of A Christmas Carol. I think he would be proud and gratified by Chandler Craig’s performance.

You might have surmised from this review that I am a fan of Dickens. I am now a fan of Chandler Craig, whose virtuoso performance brought new life to an old Christmas tale and allowed me to look for a short while into and remember my own humanity.

Do yourself a favor this holiday season. Order up this audiobook edition of A Christmas Carol, in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, narrated by Chandler Craig. Then heat up the hot chocolate, pop the corn, and gather the family around.

And my rating in case you haven’t figured it out?

An emphatic 5 Stars 

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