The festive season isn't complete without something Dickensian, and this novella is set at the New Year. Like most of his work, the focus is on the poor of Victorian London and the hardships they faced. There is the touch of the supernatural in the bells, or the chimes, at New Year, as well as a moral message.
The story is set in the 1840s on New Year's eve and the central character is a poor man who works as a porter, or ticket messenger. He has some debt and he worries about the future of his only daughter, who is due to be married the next day. He hears about the views of the rich and their attitude to those in poverty and reads depressing news items. These lead him to question whether the poor are responsible for their own situation, as in the concept of pathological poverty, which was a popular theory during the Victorian era.
This is quite a depressing book despite the main character being a fairly positive man. His life is hard but he helps others as much as he can and his 'sins' are rather minor. So there is no redemption to speak of and nobody benefits very much from his experiences with the goblins of the bells.
What this book does well is highlight the attitudes and issues of the poor and how they can still enjoy what little they have. Best of all though, is the writing of Dickens, the way he describes the characters so that they come alive with their quirky features that make them unique. But mostly the imagery of the bells in the tower: the scene is painted in the way only Dickens can and is strong enough to open the story and keep the reader hooked. This, of course, is what makes Dickens.
This is not a jolly, uplifting festive story in the way A Christmas Carol is, but it does have atmosphere and the excellent writing. Recommended for those who enjoy good writing.
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First published by Chapman and Hall in 1844. The work is in the public domain with many reprints and some ebook versions are available free of charge.