Saturday, October 26, 2013

31 Days of Books: Tale of Two Cities

Title:  Tale of Two Cities

Author:  Charles Dickens

Published:  1854

Year I read it:  2004, 2006

One sentence summary:  The classic novel of the French Revolution; of doppelgangers; of family devotion, betrayal, and shame; and of the relation of two cities: London and Paris.

Interesting fact:  Dickens's only historical fiction novel. 

Three reasons to read it:

  • If you, like me, think Dickens is a bit heavy-handed in his symbolism and caricatures and length, etc... Let me assure you, this book is better than most.  [It's like Spielberg's Lincoln - he seems to have stepped back enough to let the characters breathe and fill the space he's created.]
  • Sydney Carton.  No, I'm not just fangirling.  I may have a thing for complex, quasi-scoundrelly protagonists.  But it's not just that.  Sydney is genuinely amazing.  He's brilliant creation and he makes the rest of this story work.
  • This is one of those books that you have to trust that the author is weaving a web of plots and that they will somehow connect in the end.  Dickens does a fabulous job of bringing all his threads together for a spectacular climax - no loose ends, no characters wasted. 

One reason you maybe shouldn't:

  • Being that it's Dickens, there are still (in my opinion) the issue of the weak-or-evil-female conundrum. 

Great quotes:

“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.” 
“I wish you to know that you have been the last dream of my soul.” 
"Oh, you will let me hold your brave hand, stranger?""Hush! Yes, my poor sister; to the last.”


  1. You included the hand-holding quote! :)
    This book is just fantastic. Love it.

  2. Your point about not wasting characters is brilliant! And so true. Oh Dickens, he will always have a place in my heart.
    Oliver Twist is his other character masterpiece in my opinion.
    Fabulous post :)

  3. I love this book! I wouldn't say that it's a perfect book though. Lucie Manette is a pretty bland and insipid heroine and I find the opening 60 pages before Sydney and Darnay show up quite dull. But I can completely overlook these things because it's just so beautifully-written and dramatic and moving. And Sydney is such an amazing character! So even though I wouldn't say that this is a perfect book it's still one of my favourites :) I'm really looking forward to reading more of Dickens' works and I've decided that I'm going to read at least 1-2 of them a year. So far I've read David Copperfield, AtoTC, A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations. DC & AToTC are my favourites so far. Next year I'm planning on reading Bleak House & Oliver Twist :)

    I don't know about you but I'd love for this book to get a film or miniseries adaptation. It's been over 20 years since the book was last adapted for television and about 50 years since it was adapted for the big screen. Er, why?! AToTC seems a very adaptable work to me, far more so than some of Dickens' other books. It's one of Dickens' shorter works and has got plenty of drama and epic themes.

    1. I agree regarding Lucie (and Dicken's females in general). The opening is confusing, but after finishing (and re-reading), I found "recalled to life" remarkably affective. It's stuck with me as one of the most haunting yet hopeful phrases. I'm not a huge Dickens reader :/ Got stuck half way through Great Expectations and need to finish it! I agree - it's about time we had a full-scale adaptation of Tale of Two Cities!

  4. If I was to make a list of My Top Ten Favourite Books of All Time, this would definitely be on the list. I was completely captivated by this from start to finish. Even though I've read my fair share of books that depict disgustingly violent events in world history, I don't think any other book has really "got to me" like this one has. And like you said, it's quite an interesting exception to Dickens' usual style of writing.
    Btw, I'm going to start following your blog properly now :) I'm on a mission to find more interesting literature blogs to read and now I found one!