Monday, 25 December 2017

A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens + #FreeBook

A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
First published in the UK by Chapman And Hall in 1859.

How I got this book:
Bought at a charity shop

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Novel by Charles Dickens, published both serially and in book form in 1859. The story is set in the late 18th century against the background of the French Revolution. Although Dickens borrowed from Thomas Carlyle's history, The French Revolution, for his sprawling tale of London and revolutionary Paris, the novel offers more drama than accuracy. The scenes of large-scale mob violence are especially vivid, if superficial in historical understanding. The complex plot involves Sydney Carton's sacrifice of his own life on behalf of his friends Charles Darnay and Lucie Manette. While political events drive the story, Dickens takes a decidedly antipolitical tone, lambasting both aristocratic tyranny and revolutionary excess--the latter memorably caricatured in Madame Defarge, who knits beside the guillotine.

I read A Christmas Carol a while before Christmas last year - my first Dickens actually from the book rather than the TV! I thought it might be fun to make this author another of my Christmas traditions so chose the not-at-all seasonal A Tale Of Two Cities for this year. It turns out that I already knew the first and last sentences because they have become famous quotes: 'It was the best of times and the worst of times' and 'it is a far far better thing that I do than I have ever done'.

For me this novel was a bizarre mix of some of the best descriptive writing I have read, interspersed with some of the most oversentimental claptrap and unrealistic dialogue. If Dickens was a modern indie author, reviews would surely be scathing! The timeline jumps at the beginning felt disjointed, but the story does eventually settle into itself. I loved his evocations of the poverty-stricken districts of Paris. Also the excitement and horror of running battles during the Revolution is breathtakingly well done. That knife sharpening scene in the courtyard!

However, of the famed Dickens characters, I didn't see much sign in this book and I was completely underwhelmed by the love story! Charles Darnay is basically just bland and his dearly beloved Lucie is so saccharinely pure and Good as to be exasperating. Her only nod to a genuine personality is her rather disturbing habit of clasping men's heads to her breast at the slightest provocation. I was surprised to read in the publisher's notes that A Tale Of Two Cities is the most popular Dickens novel after Pickwick Papers. Perhaps its length has something to do with that?

Etsy Find!
by Homebodies Co in
Wisconsin, USA

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Books by Charles Dickens / Historical fiction / Books from England


  1. This is another classic that I have yet to read but I do want to read at some point. Based on your comments on the whole writing style, it kind of reminds me of Virignia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway whose writing style really wore me down after a while. I think I'll still read it regardless, but it's good to be going in prepared for a bit of a disjointed timeline. Lovely review, Stephanie!

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

    1. I'm glad to have read this because it is one of those classics that gets quoted and alluded to in many other novels so I will now (hopefully) spot and appreciate such references. I wouldn't want to have to read this one again though!