The Cricket on the Hearth foregrounds the side of Dickens the 20th century liked least- that is to say, the Dickens of child brides and blind girls and singing kettles. Great-great granny loved all that sort of thing and great granny didn't but the 20th century is over now and those ancestral worthies are dead- and we are free to form our own opinions. Darker themes- of loveless marriage and marital infidelity- are touched on, a gun is very nearly fired, there is some excellent fantasy, and a Scrooge-like conversion takes place off-stage. The plot is highly artificial- as Dickens' plots generally are, but neat- which they often aren't- and the good-heartedness is real and happy-making. Eleanor Farjeon, who wrote the introduction to the Oxford Illustrated edition- thinks it's the best of the Christmas Books.