Charles Dickens: The Chimes
The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells that Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year In
(classic fiction, social commentary)
by Charles Dickens
narrated by Richard Armitage
This novella was hard to get into. I suspect this was largely because it was written in 1844 and has the style and theme of the time. It’s like most Dickens, really. You might love it, but it’s more likely that the modern reader will find it difficult to get invested in it. Even the well-loved stories (like A Christmas Carol) can be hard to read due to the change in the writing style; some of his others, this one included, are also thematically a little harder to swallow as a modern reader. For instance, I know that the gender gap was a lot larger when this was written, but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept.
Anyway, once I did get back into the rhythm of Dickens’ writing style and the characters became more fleshed out, I did enjoy the main story. Armitage’s narration fit the story well, with a bit of different voices for the different characters. (It was easier to distinguish between his men than his women, though, even though there were only a couple of women in the story.) It took about half of the novella for me to develop any connection to the characters, though.
I think it’s safe to say that I enjoyed the story but not so much the novella. I am very glad I listened to this one instead of reading it myself, because I would probably not have finished it in book form. I probably will never listen to it again. I am glad I did listen to it, but I feel no need for a repeat. Dickens fans should definitely read this; everyone else, only maybe. It is at least a short read (the audiobook clocks in at 3 hours 42 minutes), so there’s no huge time commitment as with some of his longer novels. (I’m looking at you, Great Expectations.)
This is part of a series of stories that Wikipedia calls Dickens’ “Christmas books,” even though The Chimes is set at New Year’s instead of Christmas. It was published a year after A Christmas Carol, and while it seems to attempt the same moral awakening that its predecessor succeeded at, this one is a lot darker and less clear. The best parts, I feel, are those that revolve around the chimes themselves: they present a clear picture in the mind. (I read that some Italian chimes were the inspiration for the story, and it shows.)