By Emily De Vogele and Cameron Phillips
I love a classic, and Christmas time is no different when it comes to reading. I first came across A Christmas Carol when I was writing my MA dissertation on the Oxford Movement of the 1830s and 1840s. Dickens’ work was an essential part of the Victorian resurgence of the celebration of Christmas, and A Christmas Carol is yet another branch of Dickensian commentary on the socio-political period he was living in and writing on.
The greatest and most pertinent part of A Christmas Carol is the humanist focus that Dickens chooses to intertwine into the work. Many people might not appreciate that the family gatherings, seasonal food and drink, dancing, games and a festive generosity of spirit that are present in A Christmas Carol, are directly responsible for those aspects being the cornerstone of modern Christmas celebrations. Those are the aspects that are important during Christmas time. It’s not the gifts, or how grand you can dress up your house to impress your neighbours and everyone who passes it, it’s the people you are with and the places you choose to be. It’s the damp dew on the early December fields and the warm glow of the home that you are welcomed back to after a day of work or school.
Beyond that, the greatest offering that A Christmas Carol presents to the listener however, is how cosy it is. Now, I use that word in quite the literal sense, as for me, there are few things better during the winter than to curl up in bed, or by a warm fire and read a book. That might sound dreadfully cliche, but it’s me. Simon Prebble’s narration is as warm and inviting as the journey that Scrooge goes on, and whilst this might seem like an obvious choice, there remains few better.
Completely straying away from Cam’s pick, I have to go with a festive historical fiction that was released last winter. Christmas with the Ops Room Girls by Vicki Beeby is the perfect audiobook to curl up on a cold winter's night with. If you’ve been reading this magazine for a while, or know me at all, you know I love a good historical fiction. After stumbling across the e-book last year, I found myself struggling to connect with the story but desperately wanting to. When the festive season rolled around again this year, the story was on my mind yet again, desperate to finish it. That’s when I noticed there was an audiobook version to my surprise!
Although technically a sequel to Beeby’s other novel, The Ops Room Girls, I think this can be read and enjoyed as a standalone too (but if you’re in the mood for a full series binge, all three books are wonderful.) Set during 1939 on the Sussex coast, we follow three women from vastly different backgrounds. Evie, May and Jess must put their differences aside to face what is ahead and keep their pilots safe in the sky. There’s a wonderful balance of friendship, tough times and hope. I think that’s what makes books set in this time so appealing to so many, it shows that even in the toughest of times, we can band together and get through anything.
I have to commend the narrator for bringing these women to life. Eleanor Yates has narrated all of the books in this series, making for a fully encapsulating experience. Her voice shifts subtly to speak for each character, but not in a way that becomes confusing or overwhelming. I savoured this listening experience, not wanting it to end but wanting to know what was going to happen next.
Historical fiction, especially from newer or smaller publishing houses such as this one (originally published by Canelo Fiction), don’t always get an audiobook version. Bolinda Publishing produced the audiobook, helping to make it more accessible for readers who might struggle with the original e-book and paperback version. By making more festive reads, especially in genres such as this one, it makes stories like this easier for more readers to enjoy. I for one am extremely happy there was an audiobook version, especially one produced and recorded so well.