Monday, January 21, 2013

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

'Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death; -- the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!'

After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the ageing Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.

This edition uses the text as it appeared in its serial publication in 1859 to convey the full scope of Dickens's vision, and includes the original illustrations by H. K. Browne ('Phiz'). Richard Maxwell's introduction discusses the intricate interweaving of epic drama with personal tragedy. (from GoodReads)

I finally finished A Tale of Two Cities! I've been "reading" it since the summer, meaning that I started it then and haven't touched it since. Luckily it was on GoodReads for free, which is pretty awesome.

It's hard for me to judge classics because we all know they are magnificent works of literature, but sometimes it's hard for modern readers to enjoy them. At least it is for me. When I have to actually work to read a book, it makes it less fun, which is really unfortunate. That being said, I did enjoy A Tale of Two Cities (how could I not?) but I will admit that it takes a certain amount of concentration to finish.

I wanted to read A Tale of Two Cities because I've never read any Charles Dickens (except abridged versions of A Christmas Carol, which doesn't count) and it's referenced a lot in The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare. I could definitely see the parallels, which is pretty cool, but also makes me worried for certain characters' well-being.

I love that this novel is set during the French Revolution, which is such a fascinating time period. I'm surprised more historical fiction isn't written about this era because there is so much potential. There was a lot of emphasis on the revolutionaries and the novel really showcased the "Reign of Terror" which the characters in A Tale of Two Cities fall prey to.

Ultimately, the ending of A Tale of Two Cities was what made the book for me, because I was so surprised  by the actions of Sydney Carton. His character gives new meaning to the term sacrifice because his love for Lucie meant that her happiness trumped all else, including his own. Charles Dickens wrote such a great character!

So those are my thoughts on the classic A Tale of Two Cities. Obviously I'm not a literary scholar but I enjoyed the story as much as is possible when you have to really focus on the text. If you're interested in the themes found in this novel then give A Tale of Two Cities a chance! You can read it online on GoodReads, too!

Rating: 7 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from the library, then read on GoodReads

1859/Penguin Classics/544 pages.


Briana said...

Ugh I also have trouble reading classics! It's terrible because I am a senior in college with an English Lit minor... I should be great at this stuff!

Stephanie Ingrid Sarah Kristan said...

Oh, there's quite a bit of literature set during the French Revolution, for precisely the reason you mention. Ripe with conflict, morality, emotion. Two other great ones: LES MISERABLES by Victor Hugo (but even more of a commitment than A TALE OF TWO CITIES) and THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL by Baron Orczy (a bit shorter, more humorous and romantic). We love them all, and are glad you stuck with Dickens.

If you're looking for more by him, we recommend GREAT EXPECTATIONS.

Bookworm1858 said...

The thing I love about this book is that it has basically the best opening and closing lines of all time!

I would also second the recommendation for Great Expectations and add my own for Bleak House when you're ready to settle down with a long read (bonus: a character spontaneously combusts!)