A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

dickens in decemberMany of you know I set out to read 10 books by Charles Dickens this year. When autumn arrived, I needed a break from Dickens. That’s when I heard that Caroline and Delia were hosting Dickens in December. So I set some of his books aside—four to be exact. Well, I may have set too many aside. However, I can’t change that now. I’ve completed three of them, and started the fourth and last one for the year. The last one, Our Mutual Friend, is over 700 pages. Odds are good that I won’t finish it. Only time will tell.

I have known for years that A Tale of Two Cities starts off with, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” But that’s all I knew. From other bloggers I picked up that it was about the French Revolution.  Here’s a brief synopsis since many of you have read the novel. Charles Darnay, a French aristocrat is accused of treason. Sydney Carton is a cynical Englishman. He and Darnay look almost identical. This likeness helps Darnay escape the accusation. Yet, when Darnay travels to France during the French Revolution, can his life be spared during the terror?

After reading it I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy the first half. It’s a dark novel, even for Dickens. Normally his novels include bumbling characters that add humor to ease the dreariness. This one is devoid of humor. The characters are one-dimensional. Also, most of his novels include a wide array of characters that pop in and out of the story. This one has fewer characters. The real story in this novel is the French Revolution.

What makes this novel one of the most famous historical fiction novels? For me, it’s the end. When I persevered through the first half I was rewarded with a story that impelled me to stay up late to finish the entire novel. When I started to piece together what was actually going to happen I couldn’t believe it. If you’ve read the novel, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, I don’t want to ruin it for you. It was the ending of this novel that made me enjoy it. All I can say is, if you don’t like it at first, give it some time. It gets better.

Now I have two more reviews to write for 2012. Where did this year go?

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast (lesbianswhowrite.com) with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (iheartlesfic.com), a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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36 Responses to A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

  1. I wrote an entire essay on A Tale of Two Cities when I was in grade 11. Got an A, but still have not read the book–maybe it is time,.

  2. Carl V. says:

    I was introduced to Dickens, and A Tale of Two Cities, when I was a junior in high school. I will forever be grateful to that teacher (who also got me hooked on Shakespeare that year). A Tale of Two Cities remains my favorite Dickens novel. It is dark, but I also find it to be quite beautiful. Definitely a must read, in my opinion, and I’m glad you persevered with it and read it through until the end.

    • TBM says:

      It took me some time to get used to his lack of humor in this one. I’m used to chuckling over the ridiculous situations his characters get into and the crazy names. I missed that at first. Once I settled into the story, I loved it. I still can’t decide which is my favorite. I’ll have to think about that.

  3. The Hook says:

    Fantastic choice! As for where the year went, good luck figuring that out…

  4. AussyDog says:

    Unfortunately I was “forced” to read Dickens in high school and absolutely detested it. The books were plodding, slow, and boring. The humor was barely there, at least for me. And then I found out something interesting and it all made sense….

    …back in the day when Dickens started writing he wrote serially. He released his novels, serially and got paid by the release…chapter by chapter. My inner cynic immediately concluded….he was dragging out these books on purpose!! That’s why they were so plodding….so boring…so much like a soap opera. The moment that happened….I detested Dickens and never read another Dickens book ever again.

    …but..uh..congrats to you for finishing it? lol

    • TBM says:

      A lot of people find Dickens wordy. However, I love his descriptions and his wit. I will admit that he isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and when we are forced to do things during the teen years it leaves a mark 🙂

      • AussyDog says:

        I think a lot of it has to do with that “forcing”. Perhaps I should revisit Dickens, but there’s a lot of things I should be reading. I just don’t sit down and do it enough.

        When I was in grades 7-9 I went to a private school on a full bursary. One of the teachers printed and posted a list of books banned in public school, then circled all the ones that we were going to read.

        Some of those are my most favorite books I’ve ever read (Catcher in the Rye being one of them) Now I guess the question is….did I like it because I knew it was banned…or because it was genuinely good on it’s own terms.

      • TBM says:

        Oh Catcher in the Rye is one of my faves. I read it in school and I reread it in 2011. I enjoyed it my first time, but really appreciated it more reading it as an adult. I do like your question–let me know if you figure it out 🙂

  5. Caroline says:

    Yes indeed, where did this year go.
    I’m intrigued by this novel but have heard mixed things. Good to know it’s worth waiting until the end. I think the first line is amazing. These are lines we all dream of writing, don’t we.
    They just stick in your head. My next Dickens will be Bleak House, that’s for sure. But not this year.
    You’ve done really well. Thanks for joining and the links. I’m looking forward to discuss A Christmas Carol.

    • TBM says:

      I would love to write a line like that and have people say, “WOW.” I really enjoyed Bleak House–I’m curious to see how you get along with Dickens now and that one is one of his longer novels. I’ll be here on Friday to discuss A Christmas Carol–see you then!

  6. Carol says:

    I’ve never read this one. To be honest, Dicken in general doesn’t tempt me much.

    • TBM says:

      And his books are normally long so if you don’t enjoy his writing style it could be torturous to get through. I like him, but understand not everyone does.

  7. Novroz says:

    Thank you for this review 🙂
    I have the book on my shelf now..and reading how you said that the first half isn’t so great makes me caution myself and hoping I can pass through that not so interesting part. I will read it soon once my Micheal Crichton book is finished.

  8. petit4chocolatier says:

    I love A Tale of Two Cities. I have been trying to catch up on reading. I agree, time goes by so fast!!

  9. Congratulations on how many books you have managed in 2012! You should be proud – I’m a slow reader and procrastinate too much! I would love to have such motivation and determination. Well done 🙂 and happy Christmas too

    • TBM says:

      Reading is one of the things that I really enjoy and it calms me. I wish I had more time, but I try to set aside some time each day–even if I only read a page. Happy holidays!

  10. Thanks for the review. I haven’t read the book but your thoughts on it sound very intriguing. I have Our Mutual Friend and Little Dorrit, still thinking if I should go for one of them for the Dickens in December event, will I have enough time to finish…hmm, tough choice. 🙂

    • TBM says:

      I haven’t read either of those yet, but I started Our Mutual Friend. I’m not sure when I’ll get to Little Dorrit–after reading so many of his novels, I may take a break. Good luck with your reading, whichever you choose.

  11. I read this in high school and it remains my favorite Dickens novel. Glad you persevered until the end!

  12. Jo Bryant says:

    I hate to admit this but I have never read a Dickens book…maybe that will change now

  13. I haven’t read this but your review makes me want to. Love a good story. Hopefully I will soon develop the patience to read a book again. 😛

  14. Pingback: Dickens in December – Wrap up « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  15. Priya says:

    I know what you mean about trudging on to the end – it was worth all the slightly tiring moments and heavy prose. That being said, I do like dark-ish vibe the book had. It’s apparently not typically Dickensian, which is a good thing, as too much of that kind of dreariness wouldn’t be as effective, but with A Tale of Two Cities, I think it worked!

    • TBM says:

      He did know when to lay on the dreariness. I think it’s almost impossible to write about war and revolutions without having it be dark. This book adds so much to his overall collection and helps demonstrate his skills.

  16. Rachel says:

    This is one of those books that I really should re-read. I love Dickens now, but I hated Dickens back when I was forced to read this book when I was 15. I might look at it very differently this time around!

    • TBM says:

      I think I would have hated this book when I was still a teenager. But I hated most things I had to do then. If you read it, let me know what you think. Happy New Year!

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