A Tale of Two Cities: A Penguin Enriched eBook Classic
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"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known' After finishing A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens said 'it has greatly moved and excited me in the doing'. One of his most haunting novels, it has, since its first serial publication in 1859, continued to exert a grip on the popular imagination. Set during the French revolution in a lethal, vengeful Paris and a leafy, tranquil London, the two cities of the title are only a part of the novel's stark dichotomies, which are continued as Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay - their lives touched by the same woman - are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris only to fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.

Penguin Enriched eBook Classics Features: How to Navigate Guide, Filmography for Dickens's, A Tale of Two Cities, Filmography for Dickens's Novels, Early Reception of A Tale of Two Cities,-Further Reading, What is Dickensian?, Psychology in A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens and Melodrama, Dickens and Alcohol, The Gothic in A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens and Prisons, Dickens and Servants, Dickens Sites to Visit in England"

Customer Reviews:

  • Awesome - my favorite Dicken's novel!
    I like all of Dicken's work because of his ability to bring a place and period to life as well as his gift for creating round characters that seem like real people you can reach out and touch. This novel certainly represents these qualities, but has a dark quality with no type of comic relief. It is intense and it captures the psychological and emotional climate of the the French revolution in a visceral way.

    This novel which parallels the rise of the French revolution, compares and contrasts life in two cities Paris and London. It also develops a very intricate plot that is difficult to follow if one does not read steadily. In other words, it's not a light plot that you can set down for a few days and pick back up. On the other hand, it's extremely engaging and you won't want to put it down.

    When I read it, I actually bought the Cliff's notes because I needed to set the book down for a few days at a time. When I picked it up again, I found the Cliff's notes useful to help me engage again without a lot of looking back through the book for all the twists and turns in the plot and lives of the characters.

    This is a great novel in every respect, but it is not a happy one. It captures the harsh reality of the French Revolution in deep way. If you are studying the French Revolution, I would say it's a must read to truly get the spirit of what was going on. I don't believe history books can do it justice, you need the inside view which this provides.

    Lastly, if you are simply enjoy a good story, you will like this. Don't expect a "everyone lived happily ever" type ending, however. This is heavy stuff, almost in the spirit of a Russian existentialist novel....more info
  • "The Transition To The Sport Of Window Breaking , And Thence To The Plundering Of Public Houses Was Easy And Natural" C.D.
    This was my first Dicken's novel and was convinced upon completion that it would not be my last. Having done some background reading on the French Revolution was very helpful as well as having an edition that provided endnotes to shed light on the many historical references and nuances that Dicken's masterfully places throughout the book. Without this help, I would not have have understood or experienced the full depth of this story or the message that Dicken's conveys which is one more concerned about the human response rather than the historical impact of the French Revolution. This is not an eaasy casual read. My reccomendation is to do your homework on the French Revolution, reread portions when necessary (don't skim),try to capture and understand the many nuances and references, and most of all savor the wonderful writing. Do this and you will be astounded with recognition of why Charles Dickens is one of the greatest writers ever lived. ...more info
  • A Tale of Two Cities spun by one genuis named Dickens!
    Who can forget some of the immortal lines from this 1859 classic by Dickens? "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times begins this immortal story of the Reign of Terror during the brutal,bloody and atheistical French Revolution.
    Great characters march from London to Paris in these stirring pages: Dr.Manette who had been imprisoned in the Bastille; his
    lovely daughter Lucy: Charles Darnay and Sidney Carton; the
    evil Defarges; the plucky Pross: Mr. Jarvis and others. Characters pour forth in profusion from the inexhaustible pen of the
    master of English fiction,
    If you haven't read this book in years pick it up again and enjoy an exciting tale. The book was written by Dickens after he had read Thomas Carlyle's "French Revolution" and many other books on the period. His research shows in a realistic rendering of what one family experienced during this terrible time. A time
    for suffering and redemption; a time of cowardly traitors and also great bravery. A time ripe with all facets of the human
    emotions Dickens explored so well.
    The preface, footnotes, illustrations and several appendices in the Penguin edition add to the reader's enjoyment. ...more info
  • Great ending to what otherwise I found stale
    It always takes me a while before I really get interested in any story. Unfortunately this story took until almost the end before it really grabbed me. It may not be that bad for you, but I found some of the sentences extremely long. After reading David Copperfield I'm put off by his diction or older cliches, as long as the story is compelling. Many of his descriptive narratives were just too long and drawn out. I think there might have been some clever metaphors that I was just to lazy to think about; or as an excuse I don't know that much about that time in history. The end was full of action and suspense, I don't know if it was more disappointing that the story ended or that the first five-sixths of the book was flat. I hope your experience will be better than mine....more info
  • It is the best of books, it is the worst of books....
    I was first introduced to this book when I was 14 years old in my 8th grade English class. I found it utterly overwhelming; in its cast, its plotlines, its settings, its themes and most of all, in the intricate web the various relationships create. I only understood three things about this book. First, the two cities are London and Paris. Second, France was convulsing itself with the French Revolution while England was undergoing changes that would prepare it to enter the Industrial Revolution. Third, English in Dickens' time did not resemble English at the end of the 20th century, but somehow seemed similar to the English used in Hollywood epic movies from the 1950s and 1960s like Spartacus, Ben-hur, the Ten Commandments, Cleopatra, etc...

    Years later, I picked up this book and reread it. I considered this a labor, not of love, but of duty. This book is so famous and used so often in English literature classes that I felt I had to read it again for a deeper understanding. What I got from this book a 2nd time around is a profoundly subtle yet accurate sociological and psychological study of what happens to a society and a community that is built on shaky foundations. Specifically, France was an aristocracy where a tiny minority owned all the land. The rest of society was organized into tiers that varied in their opportunities of becoming landowners. Because of this pyramid structure, most of the people hewed to the social order knowing that yes they get crapped on by those above them, but there's always somebody below them to take advantage of.

    Eventually this social Ponzi scheme comes to a screeching halt with the French Revolution. Enough people have had enough that they decide to start over. In the process a lot of people get killed and a lot of property changes hands. So woven into this story of a society's collapse are individual tales of woe, revenge, sacrifice, retribution, love and lust. Some are wrongly imprisoned or executed, while others willingly trade places to free those who have been marked for punishment. Families are torn asunder, and friendships are made and betrayed.

    Overall, this book is a classic; though not appropriate for anyone not in their mid-teens yet. Its careful depiction of a society warrants its reading for those interested in 18th century Western history. But it should be read with notes and study guides for its depth and complexity can easily lose the interest and focus of many readers....more info
  • "He is Recalled to Life..."
    Everyone knows the opening line of this novel: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," but have you ever stopped to think about what it actually means? Putting a context on famous lines of literature is (for me at least) one of the best parts about reading classic novels, something that everyone should attempt to do at some stage during their lifetimes. "A Tale of Two Cities" definitely falls into that category, as it contains some of Dickens's best and most complex work. The title stems from the fact that it is London and Paris - rather than any individual character - which make up the central character of the novel, and the way in which these two cities guide the fates of their inhabitants.

    This is certainly one of Charles Dickens's more unique novels, being one of only two of his works (the other being Barnaby Rudge (Penguin Classics)) that is best described as historical fiction. Incorporating events of the French Revolution such as the storming of the Bastille, the September massacres and the infamous Revolutionary tribunals that sent thousands to their deaths at the gulliotine, the novel is set against a wide sweep of history that provides the context for the intrigues of his characters. As Dickens himself articulated, characters are not as developed as they are in his other works, and are revealed through action rather than dialogue or exposition. Thus, "A Tale of Two Cities" is far from a character study, though Dickens provides several vivid scenes that give us insight into the players, whether it be the monotonous shoe-making of Doctor Manette, the lethargic leaning of Sydney Carton or the frantic knitting of Madame Defarge.

    Pulling together a complex story of betrayal, intrigue, danger, hidden identities and past secrets, Dickens weaves his three protagonists (insofar as you could say this novel *has* protagonists) into a complicated tale set against the dangers of the French Revolution: Doctor Manette, a freed prisoner of the old aristocratic regime, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat who has denounced his heritage, and Sydney Carton, a brilliant English lawyer with a wastrel lifestyle (who is also the most vivid character in the novel). Each man becomes swept up in the events of the Revolution, each facing their inner demons and the secrets of the past that rise up to threaten their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

    As is to be expected, at the centre of this maelstrom is a young woman, with whom all males are besotted. She is a typical Dickensian heroine: meek, virtuous, beautiful, tearful, and the object of everyone's dearest affections. As someone who has read several Dickens books, she is a somewhat frustrating character - is there really a difference between Lucie Manette and say, Rose of Oliver Twist (Penguin Classics) or Agnes of David Copperfield (Penguin Classics) or Biddy of Great Expectations (Penguin Classics)? Lucie is the paragon of Victorian expectations in a woman, the domestic goddess, the angel of the house, the damsel in distress (in fact, the most memorable aspect to her character is Dickens's mention of her talent at arranging furniture. I'm not kidding). Yes, she is a product of the time, and no doubt a reflection of Dickens's own longings (considering his own domestic lifestyle was far from ideal), but you can't help but wish that Dickens had taken the time to explain why Lucie had such an extraordinary effect on the men around her, rather than just tell us that such a thing was so.

    Despite this, Dickens has a tightly plotted novel, which gradually reveals the intricate connections between each character as the story progresses. By any other author, these connections would seem melodramatic or too coincidental, in Dickens's hands, they take on the sense of an inevitable pattern taking shape, almost a fateful air. Juggling the intimate details of the inner turmoil relationships of the characters with the grander scale of the political upheaval, Dickens strikes the perfect balance between the two, personified in the cities themselves. London becomes the place of peace and security, but also dignified secrecy and disclosure (as Dickens famously ponders in the opening chapters, pointing out that we - as human beings - are all mysteries to each other), whereas Paris is swept up in violence, blood-lust and a witch hunt for enemies of the new order. Yet as Richard Maxwell points out in his enlightening introduction to this edition, the two cities exist together in the course of the novel - without Paris, Carton's melancholic and wasteful life was in vain; without London, there is no safe haven for the Darnay family to flee to.

    Dickens also has room for his own commentary on the Revolution, and is careful in his portrayal of those involved, making none of them totally evil, nor completely virtueous. Everyone involved is painted in shades of grey, making the Revolution itself a complicated process of upheaval, cruelty, justice, madness, victory and tragedy. Just as the revolt of the people is perceived as justified against the tyranny of the aristocracy that abuses their position so appallingly, the madness that follows becomes just as horrifying as the rule of that which preceded it. As it stands, Dickens ends the novel by alluding to the execution of Madame Roland, who was said to have cried out just before her death: "O Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name!" This is one of my favourite Dickens's novels, and leaves you with plenty to mull over long after you've finished reading. ...more info
  • Unforgettable
    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

    So begins one of the greatest books ever written (in my own humble opinion), about injustice, love, horror, fear, hate, and sacrifice. It's powerful and mindblowing, and made me stay up till midnight on a schoolnight just to finish it, when I had to wake up at five o'clock -- and I already knew the ending. It's that good.

    The characters are real and incredible; Dr. Manette is a doting father and strong person (the scene in which he tries to begin shoemaking again directly after Darnay's second imprisonment is miserable to read about, and sad in its own way), Lucie Manette is a courageous and strong person too, though not the focal point of the book, Charles Darnay, while not super-developed, is also realistic. But the character that truly makes this book a masterpiece is Sydney Carton. Melancholy, a drunk, almost friendless, in love with a woman whom he wants to be rid of him, and enigmatic, he is a fascinating and tragic person. Reading the scenes of him strolling around the streets the night before Darnay's to-be execution, brooding and silent, I wondered why they had been put in, but thinking back on it I know. It was essential to his character and the plot, like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, preparing quietly and almost sadly, but with a fierce inner joy as well.

    The ending almost made me cry, it was that powerful. Now, despite the fact I know I might be disappointed, I'm desperate to rent the movie.

    "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known."

    Rating: Masterpiece...more info
  • Charles Dickens: A Tale Too Slow
    After I finished the first one hundred and fifty pages of Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, I was in dismay. Never having read a novel by Charles Dickens, I was expecting much, much more. The "great" Charles Dickens is praised around the world by critics and readers alike, but by the start of A Tale of Two Cities I didn't believe it. I was inclined to quit reading, but the realization of the novel being an assignment kept me going.
    At the beginning, the pace of A Tale of Two Cities is monotonous. Dickens spends too much time in one scene; in one passage. Dickens lingers too long in one place. At times, Dickens overuses his marvelous ability to lag sentences on forever, and to create a full scale scene in just a paragraph, and he forgets about the reader. It is almost as if he gets caught up in his own writing, not caring for the reader. The wordiness of his sentences is his foe; yet his friend. When utilized correctly, the wordiness is more effective than any author that I have read, but when exploited in the wrong manner, excess is purely at work. Dickens chooses to ramble on in certain scenes, where, instead, he could get to the point and be finished. The excess of words and phrases hinders the reader's interest in the novel, and causes boredom and monotony during certain sections.
    Dickens's wordiness has much do to with the plot development. The excess of Dickens's words contributes greatly to the slow, dull story of A Tale of Two Cities at the beginning. The length of his sentences, phrases, and paragraphs ties in with the boredom of the first one hundred and fifty pages. The extra length makes one simple sentence or scene, such as the descriptions and adventures of Monsieur the Marquis, seem not interesting at all. Many characters are introduced, and much information is received; but we still gain only minor information from these occurrences and characters. The plot needs to be rejuvenated; refreshed from its tedious ways. This weak development of plot, right at the beginning, is sometimes just long enough to give readers the chance to stop. Readers may very well lose interest and abandon all hope of A Tale of Two Cities because of the storyline.
    Although the beginning plot of A Tale of Two Cities is lacking, in some ways the lacking beginning is made up in character development. Dickens is a master of characters. He presents the reader with certain characters who go through numerous changes and situations throughout the beginning and end of the novel. These experiences give change to and better the character in the end. "Idlest and most unpromising of men" (90), Sydney Carton, is a classic example. Carton "careless...and insolent" (81) overcomes the realization of his personality and stature from the beginning of the novel, and perpetrates the most selflessness and courageous act of our times; self sacrifice. Starting from the beginning, Dickens gives examples and experiences of Carton. This leads over to the novel's end when Carton eventually changes for the better, and commits his act of eternal bravery for Lucy Manette.
    Dickens's third person point of view in the novel is one of the novel's greatest strengths. Being in third person, A Tale of Two Cities can jump from scene to scene; from city to city like the blink of an eye. Third person point of view helps to create the intimate relationships of the characters such as Lucy and Darnay, Lucy and Manette, and Carton and Lucy; while it, also, gives opportunity to develop the overall plot of the French Revolution mixed into each other. Third person in Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities gives the reader an example of a relationship of people going through the hardships of the time (i.e. The French Revolution). It makes the story more personal and really hits home much harder. If Dickens had written the book in first person, there would have been no way for the book to skip back and forth between cities. There would have been no way for Dickens to go from the peaceful streets of Soho to the storming of the Bastille; from Mr. Jerry Cruncher "sitting on his stool in Fleetstreet" (159) to Saint Antoine and the Defarge's wine shop.
    The second half of the novel brings great changes to the previous half. The plot and style of writing pick up drastically. The story line unifies, and plays out amazingly. Dickens ties all of his characters from the beginning, that seemed to have no relevance to the story at all, into the ending. The stirring and adventurous second half really brings the novel together, and the "greatness" lost in the first one hundred and fifty pages of the novel, Dickens regains in the end. Dickens's sense of plot is like no other. He leads the reader on from chapter to chapter in the second half, and the novel becomes exhilarating. Dickens is still a little wordy in the second half, but because of the plot acceleration his prolixity is not as noticeable. Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities is certainly written by a master artist. Although slow starting off, A Tale of Two Cities turns into an enriching masterpiece that should be read by anyone who can get his hands on it....more info
  • A Tale of Two Cities
    I don't have much to say, so I will be brief. I as well would have thought Dickens a much better author than I found him to be, I was extremely disappointed. He describes so much in too great detail (this is mostly a ditto to the previous opinion that stated the same). yeah I guess thats it. Good job, Davis, ripping off Cliifnotes with 'your' tone synopsis....more info
  • Much to Offer
    A Tale of Two cities is a vivid story of the French Revolution filled with imagery and motifs that are thick in the literature. So many stories collide in as the numerous characters are all connected some way, some how. There's a dramatic love triangle, a revenge story, a recovery from an eighteen year imprisonment and much more.

    Charles Dickens writes as someone from his day would, filled with commas and metaphors. For children under thirteen this might be inappropriate, not because of content, but because they might not understand it enough to appreciate all it has to offer. It shows the immoral side of humanity, even though revenge isn't the only purpose. The aristocrats were mercilessly taken from there homes and to La Guillotine.

    Motifs such as The Sea, Redemption, Secret Sins, Letters, and many others reinforce what is trying to be demonstrated. They are occurring events or ideas that keep the book interesting. So many of these characters come to their doom and it the affects the reader just as it would if you were actually watching it. Dramatic foreshadowing is also very affecting, but the actual events are even more thrilling.

    Overall, I recommend this book to all willing to read, it's a wonderful book to enhance your literary vocabulary. It has tastes for men with its brutal wars and battles, but also has a sense of feminism as the love story will interests the women....more info
  • Simply Amazing
    Although most high school students complain relentlessly about the assignment of this book, I (being the book-loving nerd that i am) was glad to have an oppurtunity to read this classic. What I got out of it was more than i had hoped for.
    The kids in my class that complained about its boringness and lack of excitment were obviously missing the point. This book isnt about plot, its about charcters and relationships. (although Dickens does a terrible job of showing affection. "o, my life"- who says that?)Of course the beginning of the book was "boring"! Deep, thought provoking charcters were being established. Dickens is truley a master of words, and has no reserve in showing it. Although some complain his sentences are too lengthy and lose the readers intrest, if your reading carefully, you'll catch all sorts of hidden symbols and meanings, as well as the ocassional joke. The charcters can easily be related to, and the ending is wonderful. EVERYBODY shoudl read this book....more info
  • The Political Intrigue of Dickens
    ** This review is a synthesis of the three Charles Dickens books that I've read: A Tale of Two Cities (Penguin Classics), Great Expectations (Penguin Classics), and David Copperfield (Penguin Classics). The rationale for reviewing in this manner is to provide a foundational point of reference for those new to Dickens' work.

    In the last two years I have read, in this order, Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and David Copperfield. All three of these books were exceptional reads, and if you are thinking about dipping your toes in the waters of Charles Dickens you can't go wrong with any of them. However, notwithstanding the fact that these three books are all in the upper echelon of world literature, I have no difficulty in distinguishing between them and coming to the conclusion that they are properly ordered, from "most best" to "least best": David Copperfield, Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations.

    It seems generally to be the case that, for those who have read just one of Dickens' books, Great Expectations is the book most people have been exposed to. And most people who read Great Expectations love it. The genre is probably best described as romance meshed with individual tragedy among numerous characters. However, perhaps the strongest part of the book is the manner in which the secondary characters present a contrast to the primary story. I liked the book very much, but I think it suffers from two flaws not present in the other works reviewed here. First, the characters are not as believable as in the other two works. Second, the plot follows an unlikely path, especially in the end. Concerning this second point, it should be noted that Dickens struggled with the ending of this work, and I think it shows.

    Tale of Two Cities ranks second in this group in my mind. This book is a combination of political intrigue, romance, and personal triumph. I rank this book above Great Expectations for the sole reason that the characters in this book are so strongly developed. I don't think I have been exposed to more memorable characters in any book I've ever read. The story is interesting, too, because it takes place against the backdrop of a historical event, the French Revolution. I think Dickens had an easier time writing a convincing plot in this story than in Great Expectations because he had the aid of a real historical event.

    Great Expectations and Tale of Two Cities are both excellent books, but David Copperfield is simply the best piece of literature I've ever read. To be sure, I'm only 24 and have only read 10 pieces of classic literature since my high school years. However, David Copperfield so outdid anything I've read that I feel more than comfortable in recommending it as certainly one of the best books of all time. Dickens did a remarkable job of capturing a wide variety of human emotions and mindsets. He was aided in this by two things. First, the length of the book gave him space to fully develop his sentiments. Second, the book is written in a first-person autobiographical voice, which I think made capturing sentiments much easier than in attempting to narrate them in the third-person. Further, because the book chronicles David's life from childhood through middle-age the reader is exposed to a wide variety of human thoughts. The characters, for the most part, are more believable and the plot is generally good; I took offense to only one chapter in the whole book.

    Now, if you haven't read any of Dickens' books, I don't recommend starting with David Copperfield. I would start with Great Expectations and work through a couple others before David Copperfield. In terms of the plots, David Copperfield is much more similar to Great Expectations than Tale of Two Cities. So if you loved Great Expectations I think you will be well satisfied with David Copperfield. The plot from Tale of Two Cities is the odd-ball of this trio. In any case, all three of these books are great pieces of literature... enjoy....more info
  • A Tale of Two Cities
    Although A Tale of Two Cities is both confusing and sometimes monotonous, it is truely a great novel. Sydney Carton ,the books necessity, is both useless, and vulgar. At the beginning of the novel while talking to his partner he is referred to as the "Jackal" foreshadowing his life to come tainted by his decisions made early in the novel. Although most readers finish this novel with more pros than cons, they come to a sense that they owe a great deal of credibility to Carton, as he examplifies more than meets the eye. Having established the reputation of worthless, he has a hard time proving himself to the people amoungst him. Finally in his one chance to make his life worth the while, he sacrifices himself for his friend Lucie Mannette's husband, Charles Darnay. Darnay was one of many to be captured during the era known well as the French Revolution. As they come to find out Darnay will be lead to death only escaping it with the help of Carton. During Darnay's trial early in the novel, the public comes to find that Darnay and Carton have a striking resemblance. So, seeing this as great chance to bring meaning to his life, Carton, decides to sacrafice himself for the one and only, Charles Darnay. Thus, proving his life, saving his true friend, and adding an intriguing crux to this novel. So, as you, the reader, leave this novel you part it with both feelings of admiration and hatred, creating a love hate relationship....more info
  • Different from his others
    This may be one of the best Dickens novels. Shorter and less character-populated than any other of his books that I've read, it was also the most political. The theme centers around the French Revolution and the complete chaos in Paris at that time - Paris being one of the two cities referenced in the title, the other being London - and how the Revolution affects the lives of four primary characters: a young Englishwoman named Lucie Manette, her father Dr. Alexander Manette, Charles Darnay, a French aristocrat who rebels against his family heritage, and Sydney Carton, an English lawyer. The story begins with the reunion of Lucie and her father after the latter's long political incarceration, and the love that develops between Lucie and Charles Darnay, whom they meet on the journey home from France after Dr. Manette is released. As the Revolution ramps up, Charles also faces incarceration due to his family heritage, even though he had renounced it. Sydney Carton is an assistant to Charles' attorney. Sydney, an embittered man for reasons not really clear, also comes to love Lucie although he realizes that Charles is a better match for her and that her love lies with him. Ironically, the two men bear a strong physical resemblance to one another, a trivial fact that becomes very important later in the story.

    Just as things seem to be going so well back in England in spite of the turmoil in France, the Revolution soon catches up with the family again, and this time they're ensnared even more firmly than before - in part thanks to a clever but malicious Frenchwoman and revolutionary, Madame DeFarge, who has a serious axe to grind with the family.

    What stood out the most to me was the evocative portrayal of the social upheaval in Paris during this time. Scenes depicting the storming of the Bastille and the rage-fueled murders of jailed French anti-revolutionaries by peasant mobs were particularly powerful, and really brought that time and place alive for me. Having never looked at the French Revolution and the infamous Reign of Terror through the eyes of the common person on the street, it really illustrated well the fear and distrust everyone had for one another, even neighbors and family members.

    The ending is one of those that you hope will turn out some other way, yet it also leaves you with a deep appreciation of love and self-sacrifice.
    ...more info
  • 4 1/2 Stars...No Coincidence?
    It's no coincidence this is a classic. It's also no classic without quite a few coincidences. Charles Dickens plays freely with the laws of averages and chance, and expects his readers to buy into his premises. Once that is done--and for me, it was a simple decision to dive in with joy and dread--the book reads quickly, while still dealing with a cast of rich characters.

    A Tale of Two Cities is the story of London and Paris (mostly the latter), on the eve of the French Revolution and leading into that turbulent period. There are prisoners with hidden secrets, nobles with hidden pasts, and scoundrels with hidden goodness. As the slow fuse burns, the chaos and horror of the Revolution approaches--mirroring in some ways the American Revolution that had preceded it, but with a much more violent nature--and then draws the key characters into its net of suspicion and danger. From Dr. Manette, a troubled soul, and his sweet daughter, to Charles Darnay and the steadfast accountants, housekeepers, and friends that surround them, this is a story of goodness in the face of great evil.

    Despite that evil, Dickens has a keen eye and ear for the toils of the poor, and he makes the initial motives of his revolutionaries clear, without glorifying or completely demonizing them. This is a story that deals with oppression and class struggle, with elitism and common decency, and with the bravery that resides in even the most unlikely hearts.

    Yes, the coincidences mount up at certain points, but I couldn't help but be swept away by Dickens' clear care for his characters, for the cities and times in which the story takes place, and for the English language as a means of entertaining, educating, and challenging his readers' minds. This is a classic for a reason, and I think it holds up strongly even today....more info
  • The original historical drama
    A Tale of Two Cities is arguably Dickens' greatest work. It is epic in scope, loving in detail and haunting in its imagery.
    The concept is instantly accessible; nowadays there are dozens of movies and hundreds of books that come out every year where someone's story is told "against the backdrop of (Insert Your Choice of Civil Strife Here)." A Tale of Two Cities neatly fits into this genre, though you could argue that it created this genre and you wouldn't be overstepping things too much.
    As it is, we follow a series of characters back and forth across the channel between England and France during the years leading up to and including the French Revolution. There are those who would be turned off by such a plot, imagining dusty old rooms and stuffy language, and that would be a shame. Barring the fact that Dickens wrote over a hundred years ago the story is shockingly fresh and action packed. You have intrigue and covert operations and underworld organizations and rape and murder and grave robbing and family revelations and really it's quite the roller coaster ride which, for the most part, sticks to the world of the street instead of the drawing room.
    That being said, it is Dickens and Dickens got paid by the word, so things can seem a bit overly descriptive at times. On the other hand, it is Dickens and he is a master storyteller, so any number of things I was rolling my eyes at in early chapters came, in later chapters, to be of absolute importance, making me feel sheepish for questioning their lengthy descriptions earlier.
    Likewise, at first it seems like Dickens is just introducing characters for the sake of introducing characters, but every one of them comes into their own at some point to push the story forward into its perfect conclusion.
    Give this book a read, don't be scared off because it's Dickens, don't be scared off because its old, don't be scared off because it deals with history. Get over those things and you'll be sucked into one of the best tales ever woven....more info
  • Great and confusing story
    The story itself brings to light the differences between London and Paris during the French Revolution. I love the storyline itself as it is packed with drama and suspense in rescue of an innocent doctor accused of treason by a treasoness government. While the story it dark and very intricately written, it is by no means a book that can be read at one's own leisure. If put down, it is easy to be confused on where the story left off and where it is going. The wordage is sometimes confusing and the story jumps around much which can complicate things if you don't read the story straight through. I remember reading this 14 years ago and being completely confused by everything about the story and only just recently was able to fully appreciate the genius writing....more info
  • A Masterpiece Novel Set Before The French Revolution
    Charles Dickens, who lived from 1812 to 1870, is the best know male English writer of the 19th century. He authored 22 novels plus numerous short pieces. Most of his writing was first written in serialized form, later published as single novels.

    A young Dickens at the age of 12 had the unenviable job of attaching labels 10 hours a day at the Warren's boot blacking factory. That experience shaped much of his writing career. Still in his teens he became a law clerk, then later in his twenties a journalist. The last job as a reporter led to the serialized writing of his novels. His works were social commentaries with larger than life characters, or colorful caricatures, living in the slums of London. He was a critic of poverty, social injustice, and the slow moving court system.

    Those themes permeate most of his novels. A few novels are different, including the present A Tale of Two Cities, written towards the end of his writing career. This is a historical novel set in England and France during the years leading up to the French Revolution, starting around the year 1775. At first glance it appears less complicated than his other works, but on closer inspection one will find that the novel is relatively complicated. It is a three part story with time shifting and with many characters, and with lots of intrigue and drama.

    Without giving away critical plot elements - and it is a complicated plot which most will have trouble remembering anyway - the story opens in England as a bank representative, Lorry, travels to Dover to meet a young woman, Lucie Manette. They proceed to Saint Antoine near Paris in search of Lucie's father, Dr. Manette, who was in prison, but who has now been released. During the incarceration, he has lost his mind.

    Action then shifts back to England, five years later, to the trial of Chalres Darnay for spying. Lucie and her father testify at the trial. Darnay is acquitted and released. In Paris, Darnay's uncle, the Marquis, is involved in a street accident and other plot elements. Back in England, Darnay marries Lucie. Then, Darnay returns to Paris to help a friend of the Marquis and is imprisoned as an emigrant or aristocrat. The rest of the novel involves the return to Paris of Lucie, her father, and Lorry, and their struggle to get Darnay released. Will they be able to free him from prison or will he be executed?

    Beyond the intrigue and drama, the novel is a vehicle for Dickens to describe the horrors of the French Revolution in a serial form, later made into a novel.

    I enjoyed the read and would recommend the book.
    ...more info
  • sacrifice for love
    I loved this book because its about romance and how a man sacrificed his life to see the women he loves to be happy and to be with her daughter and husband freed because all he did with his life was scam people and he felt good in his heart with at least one good thing that he accomplished in his life so he gave up and switched with here husband and died for her....more info
  • A tale of the French revolution.
    A magnificent tale!

    'A Tale of Two Cities' is one of my favorite Dickens' novels. Although set in London and Paris, most of story deals with the turmoil in France in the late 1700s. The glory days of Louis XIV are over and the starving populace is not only out for food, but also for revenge after years of abuse and virtual slavery. Unfortunately, as is often the case in perilous times, many innocent people get caught up in the conspiracy theories of the revolution's overzealous patriots; and thus the setting for the heroes of this tale is set.

    Well written and evenly paced, this novel will hold your attention through to the very end. Character development is superb as Dickens able to create real-life characters not only for the wrongly accused, but also for those caught up in the 'meting out of justice'.

    A sad, but beautiful novel; a tale hope and tragedy, in this most infamous period of French history. 5 Stars....more info
  • The best and the worst
    I was assigned A Tale of Two Cities for school. It wasn't the most exciting novel ever in the beginning (actually it was a bit boring) but at the beginning of the 3rd installment, I couldn't put it down. Everything started to come together, and I was able to start to see through the thick haze of tangled plot lines and characters that covered the first half of the book. It amazed me how Charles Dickens could tie up all of the loose ends and not forget a single thread.

    One of the things that bothered me in this novel, and it's one of the things I've noticed in Dickens' other books too, is that most all of his characters are on a one-way road. For example, Lucie Manette is perfectly good and loving and nice. I kinda wanted to call her simpering at times. This novel had some more rounded characters in it, like Sydney Carton and Mr. Manette, and I liked that a lot.

    If high school teachers want to force-feed this to their students, I would suggest trying to relate events then to events now to make it more interesting , because I had some trouble plodding through the first 20 chapters of the book before it got interesting. Overall, I liked A Tale of Two Cities a lot and I think I'll probably re-read it in the future....more info
  • Some rough spots, but worth it in the end
    It is a mere stylistic issue that keeps me from giving this book five stars. Parts of this book are too heavy on dialogue (a Dickens trademark), leaving the reader wanting in terms of plot development. With that small caveat, this book is an exceptional read. The ending is one of the most memorable of any book I have read. Stay with Dickens through the slow parts and you will enjoy a literary treasure....more info
  • "The" Novel of Novels
    From the first lines of the novel about London and Paris to the last speech by Sydney Carton at the end the book held us in its grip. I have read Carlyle's History of the French Revolution, Dickens' main source, and find this much the superior. My wife and I read this in high school and now in our seventies appreciate it more than then, and we appreciated it then, too. Dickens' engaging style remains with the reader. A few years back we walked by the few remaining stones of the Bastille and they seemed redolent of the novel. Reading this book was more than entertainment, it was an experience....more info
  • no, really, it is that good
    the first half the book is very long, has a large cast of characters and doesnt seem to have decided which of the threads is the best one to follow. the second half is much better. but the end, the end is such a wonderful accumulation of the all the events and the characters that, if the story was a well then the beginning would be the bricks the hold the sides the second half would be the darkens at the bottom and the end would be the water itself welling up and spilling out the readers eyes. ...more info
  • Best of the Best:
    Charles Dickens' genius is clearly displayed in this excellent work. His characters are multifaceted and complex. The time that he spends describing the physical characteristics, habits, education and social/life background of each character are all necessary to the plot. By the end you will identify with them as real people and more. Dickens' use of a story within a story at the end adds a fascinating twist.

    However, I do not recommend this book for those who seek instant gratification, or for those who require a unidirectional plot. There are many instances where Mr. Dickens leads his reader down what could be construed as a dark alley or a dead end. Read on. You will be rewarded.


    RJ...more info