Friday, 5 January 2018

The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens stole my heart

Series: N/A
Author: Charles Dickens
Publication: 1845
Pages: 84 Pages
Source: Thank you to Alma Books for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!
Rating: 5/5 cupcakes!
Dickens gave his first formal expression to his Christmas thoughts in his series of small books, the first of which was the famous "Christmas Carol." There followed four others: "The Chimes," "The Cricket on the Hearth," "The Battle of Life," and "The Haunted Man." The five are known today as the "Christmas Books." Of them all the "Carol" is the best known and loved, and "The Cricket on the Hearth," although third in the series, is perhaps next in popularity, and is especially familiar to Americans through Joseph Jefferson's characterisation of Caleb Plummer.
The title creature is a sort of barometer of life at the home of John Peerybingle and his much younger wife Dot. When things go well, the cricket on the hearth chirps; it is silent when there is sorrow. Tackleton, a jealous old man, poisons John's mind about Dot, but the cricket through its supernatural powers restores John's confidence and all ends happily.
GUESS WHO FOUND THEIR NEW FAVOURITE BOOK?! ME! I absolutely adored The Cricket on the Hearth; I'm so happy to have discovered it. The Cricket on the Hearth is the third Christmas short story in the Charles Dickens Christmas short story collection that I got sent to review. I read it in the last week of Christmas, and I'm so glad I did. It's not as Christmassy as A Christmas Carol, but it's such an entertaining, heart-warming, delightful read – I'd like to make a tradition of reading it every Christmas!

I can't quite describe how much I loved this book, nor can I pinpoint just exactly what I loved about it. I perhaps I could say I loved EVERYTHING about this story, but that's not very specific, is it? Let me try to more finely detail what exactly I loved about this book. My feelings are all over the place, so I apologise in advance for my lack of coherence.

So, if you've read this blog for awhile, you'll know I adore character-driven stories. If I can connect to a character, if they feel real to me, I will most likely love a book. I think that's one of the main things I adored about The Cricket on the Hearth: the characters. 

There's the gentle, honest John Peerybingle and his young wife, Dot. There's the clumsy, quirky, lovable Tilly Slowboy, the Peerybingle's housemaid. There's the harsh, jealous “villain” of the story, Tackleton; kind-hearted Caleb and his blind daughter, Bertha; there's May Fielding and her brusque, quarrelsome mother; and, perhaps most importantly, there is the cricket who sits atop the hearth and acts as a guardian angel of sorts, as it remedies the conflicts and the sorrows, and celebrates as it witnesses the jubilation and the love. I grew to love these characters so much. They all had such distinct personalities, and – although this is a mere novella – the complexities of their character was so richly detailed. I developed an unexpected affinity with almost every character in this novel. They catapulted my emotions from sadness to radiant joy. I became so thoroughly invested in their lives; I became wholly intertwined in their stories; I fell so deeply in love with this heart-warming tale about love, family and generosity. This book crept into my heart, and I am completely certain that I will treasure the spectacular humans (for they felt like flesh and blood, not ink and paper) I encountered in this story.

As well as loving the disposition and growth of the characters, I loved the story line. At first I wasn't too sure about it; however, after the first couple of pages I was SOLD. Not too much happens initially in the book, as Charles Dickens spends quite a lot of time detailing the characters and developing the relationships, but man, did things get intense in this book. Towards the end of the novella, I was left gasping and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough, BECAUSE IT WAS INTENSE. And slightly mind-twisty. The passionate emotion that permeated the climax was written astoundingly brilliantly; I felt the betrayal, grief, confusion and nostalgic sentimentality of the characters so intensely...Charles Dickens wrote the characters' emotions so brilliantly. This book split open my heart and then filled it with a golden kind of love and wamrth. loved reading the gentle introduction into the characters' lives and their personal stories. I love how Charles Dickens slowly, gently built up to an explosive climax and then ended in festive, jubilant, spectacular manner. The comfortable, friendly warmth with which the novel starts comes full-circle; I loved the feeling of steadiness, completeness and loving reliability that encompasses this novel. Not only that, but I really liked the fairy tale elements that stitched the story together. There are fairies and spirits that reside in the Peerybingle's hearth; these fairies help sooth open wounds, lighten tense atmospheres that plague the household, and paint the air with glittering memories of better times. I was fascinated by the important role they played in the story, and I really liked the fairy tale element Dickens added to the story by introducing the fairy spirits.

Besides loving the story line and the characters, I adored the theme of love that ran through this book. There were various kinds of love that were explored in this heartfelt book. Ranging from the gentle, enduring love between John Peerybingle and his young wife, Dot to the fiercely protective, enduring, gentle love between Caleb and his blind daughter, Bertha. The love shown in this book made my heart ache with a concoction of emotions; I found myself laughing and crying on more than one occasion, and you probably will too. The relationships in this book were complex and genuine and so incredibly heartfelt – I loved it.

Lastly, I love Charles Dickens writing. One sentence can have me contemplating how society dehumanises those in poverty, the next has me in tears (of happiness or sadness) and the other has me in fits of giggles. He's such a phenomenal writer, and I understand now why so many people love his books! His writing is so perceptive and thought-provoking, highlighting the terrific and the terrible qualities of human nature in the most eloquent manner. I also adore how his omniscient writing style allows me to watch the lives of all the characters I love intertwining with one another. I think I've found my new favourite author.

The Cricket on the Hearth is a magical, whimsical Christmas fairy tale. It's filled with a gentle, quiet kind of love; jealousy; heartbreak and immense joy. There's redemption, true love and dire misunderstandings. Reading this book felt like sitting by a warm fire with loved ones and eating custard-drenched Christmas pudding – it was festive and lovely and filled my heart with the warmth. At times comical, at other times heartbreaking and always beautiful, The Cricket on the Hearth was an incredible novel that I will forever cherish in my heart.

I give it: 5/5 cupcakes!

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