I knew very little about Charles Dickens going into reading A Tale of Two Cities. Seriously, the most I know I’ve got from either The Muppets version of A Christmas Carol or the Doctor Who episode from a few years ago. (Yay Gwen!) I am glad, however, that I’m reading two of Dickens’ greatest most well-known novels this year as it is his 200th birthday! What better year to read it than on such an occasion?
I picked up this version of the book almost exactly a year ago helping my sister move to New Hampshire for grad school, mentioned in my very first Lunchbreak Interlude! I really only picked it up because I’d never read Dickens, it was incredibly cheap and is staggeringly beautiful I think – both the black and the red are actually imprinted so the cover has texture; and the pages are uneven cut. This novel counts as part of my Mount TBR Challenge (book 19 of 25 – 76%) and The Classics Club (book 10 of 100 – 10%).
I will reserve judgement on Dickens until after I’ve finished Great Expectations, but we definitely got off to a rocky start. A Tale of Two Cities didn’t really pick up for me until the last 100 pages (the last 1/3 of the novel), but it REALLY picked up – for some reason I just couldn’t get into it and wasn’t quite sure what was going on until then.
What I enjoyed most about this novel were the plot twists! There were so many, especially at the end that I was surprised a couple of times. I guessed a few of them, but I was still surprised at the ingeniousness of them. From Carton’s deed and Dr. Manette’s letter to Madame Defarge and John Barsad’s identities Dickens definitely knew how to write! I’m still reeling over the Carton’s willing sacrifice…he was such a non-entity and to end the novel like that – WOW.
The other thing that got me was the fact that A Tale of Two Cities was serialized. My book had the notes in where each release started and finished and WHOA! There were a couple when it stopped I would’ve been PISSED to have to wait for another edition of what they were printed in, as in a huge shock is revealed and then it says ‘end of xx installment’. It would have killed me to wait. But it is cool to see that modern authors (well as late as the 1970s/80s) were writing in the same way, and I guess some struggling authors still are with blog posts.
What I struggled most with was the language at first. I was able to read it fine, but occasionally I had to go back and re-read to make sure I knew what was going on. For example when the Marquis died I had to go back because there was just a bit too much description and flowery language without coming right out and saying what happened.
Recommendation: Read it! I’m not sure about the rest of Dickens work, but if it is similar I may have to expand my reading of him. Hopefully after getting through the first and finding his language and pacing it’ll be easier to read the rest.
Opening Line: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was they age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
Closing Line: “‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest I go to, than I have ever known.'” (Whited out.)