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ONCE upon a time, it matters little when, and in stalwart England, it matters little where, a fierce battle was fought. It was fought upon a long summer day when the waving grass was green. Many a wild flower formed by the Almighty Hand to be a perfumed goblet for the dew, felt its enamelled cup filled high with blood that day, and shrinking dropped. Many an insect deriving its delicate colour from harmless leaves and herbs, was stained anew that day by dying men, and marked its frightened way with an unnatural track. The painted butterfly took blood into the air upon the edges of its wings. The stream ran red. The trodden ground became a quagmire, whence, from sullen pools collected in the prints of human feet and horses' hoofs, the one prevailing hue still lowered and glimmered at the sun.… (mais)
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The fourth of Dickens' Christmas novellas, The Battle of Life is really not Christmasy at all, but it is generally enjoyable. Beginning with a truly gruesome description of a bloody battlefield, the story quickly moves far forward in time to an idyllic apple orchard on that same field where we will witness "The Battle of Life" in a rather complicated love quadrangle involving two very lovely and sweet (too sweet!) sisters and two men, along with a philosopher father who thinks all of life is just a ridiculous joke, a pair of lawyers, and a couple of servants that provide us with our comic relief. The servants, Clemency and Britain, are truly the highlight of the novella and inject it with some humor and action that is entirely absent in the idealized and sentimental love story. The twist is pretty unbelievable, but nice enough. Read this one for the battlefield description at the start, and keep at it to see what happens to Clemency and Britain. Not bad, but there is more substantial Dickens out there. ( )
  kristykay22 | Jan 9, 2021 |
I'm not buying that ending, Chuck, but you being you, I enjoyed myself, as usual. ( )
  beautifulshell | Aug 27, 2020 |
What a truly bizarre story. I would put it in the melodrama category but I think it even goes past that and hard to figure out the point. I may be a bit more judicioius in my picking of Dickens's shorter works.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
This is the fourth of Dickens' series of Christmas books, but it is quite different from the earlier volumes. It lacks the supernatural element of the previous works, and is more like a long modern short story. After a theme setting prologue about an ancient battle field, the 'short story' starts briskly with the scene set (summer in the countryside) and characters introduced (two daughters of a country doctor, dancing among apple harvesters). It is very Somerset Maugham. Of course, it is Dickens, not Maugham, so the story ends with a complicated twist, and the obligatory happy ending. I enjoyed this book, perhaps because it was different in many ways from other Dickens' works - the writing is concise, the characters interesting without being caricatures, the comic elements understated. Wikipedia tells me that it is one of Dickens' lesser known works and has never attained a high. It seems that I am out of step with popular opinion. Read February 2012. ( )
  mbmackay | Feb 24, 2012 |
The fourth of Dickens' Christmas Books, I thought this one was the least Christmassy of the five books. Dickens uses a fictional battle which took place to illustrate the mental/emotional battles of life we all face. The tale follows Dr Jeddler who refuses to take anything in life seriously and his two beautiful daughters. It's a difficult book to describe without giving away too much of the plot but in the end, the self-sacrifice of his daughters leads to the reform of the Doctor. I enjoyed this book but thought the means by which the self sacrifice was achieved was a little bit unbelievable. 3.75 stars

Interestingly, Dickens himself was not completely satisfied with how this idea had been worked out in this short novella and was eventually persuaded by a friend to rework the idea in a full length novel which was called A Tale of Two Cities. ( )
2 vote souloftherose | Jan 1, 2011 |
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ONCE upon a time, it matters little when, and in stalwart England, it matters little where, a fierce battle was fought. It was fought upon a long summer day when the waving grass was green. Many a wild flower formed by the Almighty Hand to be a perfumed goblet for the dew, felt its enamelled cup filled high with blood that day, and shrinking dropped. Many an insect deriving its delicate colour from harmless leaves and herbs, was stained anew that day by dying men, and marked its frightened way with an unnatural track. The painted butterfly took blood into the air upon the edges of its wings. The stream ran red. The trodden ground became a quagmire, whence, from sullen pools collected in the prints of human feet and horses' hoofs, the one prevailing hue still lowered and glimmered at the sun.

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