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A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
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A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

by Charles Dickens

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
21,32225864 (3.94)4 / 765
  1. 160
    Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (krizia_lazaro)
  2. 100
    The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy (MarcusBrutus)
  3. 40
    Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini (morryb)
    morryb: The French Revolutionary Mob becomes a character in each novel.
  4. 41
    The French Revolution: A History by Thomas Carlyle (chrisharpe)
    chrisharpe: A main source of inspiration for Dickens in writing A Tale of Two Cities.
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English (248)  Spanish (5)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (258)
Showing 1-5 of 248 (next | show all)
One of my favorite classics! ( )
  Paiger1979 | Mar 3, 2015 |
I thought some of the characters and foils *cough* Lucie *cough* were a bit over the top, but I really liked the ending, so I'm leaving it at a 4. ( )
  IsaboeOfLumatere | Jan 14, 2015 |
One of Dicken's best known stories, set amidst the bloody chaos of the French Revolution, and deftly spanning two countries, multiple generations, and a myriad of characters, in less space than any of his other novels occupied. The story begins with a rainy journey of Mr. Jarvis Lorry, a banker, who has received a mysterious message and is setting off to France. He picks up a beautiful young girl en route, and together they meet a prisoner who has recently been released from the Bastille. The deranged man is Dr. Manette, once a renowned physician in France, and the beautiful girl is Lucie Manette, the doctor's daughter who had believed her father dead until her visit with Mr. Lorry. The doctor is quite undone from his countless years locked away as a secret prisoner, and is fixated on the shoe making he took up during that time. Nonetheless, Lucie manages to make an impression on him where all others had failed, and she and Mr. Lorry spirit him back to England before he can be locked up again by the anonymous antagonist who had him imprisoned in the first place.

The story then jumps some years into the future, picking up in the middle of an intense trial against a supposed traitor to the British crown. Charles Darnay has been accused of being a spy for France, and despite the unsavory and untrustworthy nature of his chief accuser, the proceedings don't look good for the noble Darnay. The reader meets Lucie Manette and her father again, this time as unwilling witnesses against the defendant. Exposition reveals that Alexandre Manette has recovered his intellect and strength of character while living in England with his daughter, and that Lucie is clearly in love with the prisoner rapidly heading to a death sentence. However, a last minute reveal by Darnay's lawyers, motivated by the genius of dissolute Sydney Carton, saves the man and frees him from all charges against him!

A peaceful interlude for the main protagonists then ensues, although the author intersperses this with scenes from back in France, where dark rumblings suggest the horrible events that are about to unfold. In England, however, all is well. Lucie and her father have found a small house in a peaceful pocket of London, where they visit with Mr. Lorry, who has become an intimate of the family. Charles Darnay also frequently visits, as does Sydney Carton and Mr. Stryver, the lawyer who was in charge of Darnay's case. A handful of minor characters are also introduced and developed. such as Mr. Lorry's every man Jerry Cruncher, and Lucie's attendant Miss Pross. Dickens uses this space to weave his masterful characterization, painting these people with varied and complicated personalities, and observing several humorous episodes along the way. Eventually, Lucie and Charles marry, and then the novel again fast forwards to a future point in time.

Charles Darnay is concerned. Although he lives happily under his assumed name in England, rumors of the unrest from his home have reached him, and he feels an obligation to the peasants. It is revealed in the novel that Darnay is actually an aristocrat, part of a family who he despises for their cruelty and greed. Now that his malicious uncle is dead, his estates have been abandoned. Darnay learns about the signs of a peasant revolt and believes he can go to them and help ease their hard situation in life; he has always sympathized with them, but been able to help because his father and then uncle ruthlessly suppressed all compassion. Of course, Darnay is deluded in his imaginations of how the peasants will receive him; as soon as he arrives on French soil, he is apprehended, brought to the Bastille, and locked away. During his voyage over sea, the revolution had surged to a pinnacle of bloodshed and overthrow, but since he couldn't receive news on the ship, he had no idea how bad everything had become.

From this point on, the reader is immersed in the terror and suspense of the French Revolution. Mr. Lorry learns about Darnay's plight, and sends word to Lucie and her father, who soon journey to France to help their loved one. Miss Pross and Cruncher accompany them, and they become involved in another trial, again putting Charles life at stake, but this one is saddled with all the frenzy of the revolution, and prosecuted by the common people who have been hardened by their years of oppression and deprivation. The main characters can never win. Nothing but another last minute save by Sydney Carton, that dissolute man who is secretly in love with Lucie, is able to keep their family from utter destruction.

Although I haven't read many of Dickens' works since my kick in high school (when I read seven or eight of his giant tomes in a row), I still consider him an outstanding author well deserving his literary reputation. Tale of Two Cities is another confirmation of his skill as a novelist. Though this is one of his shorter books, the amount of characterization and plot development he unfolds is astounding. In terms of quality, this story holds up to the other, lengthier, greats. The characters are complex and fascinating, and, as usual in a Dickens story, the novel presents an array of personalities, from the purely good to the flawed to the downright awful and evil. I would happily read about these people even in a book much milder in action and events, and cared about some of them deeply. I was very on edge for the safety of Dr. Manette and his whole family. The events unfold with a rapid pace that keeps the suspense high and the story gripping, and the ending is a breathless climax that ends in a triumphant yet tragic self sacrifice, and immortal words destined to become one of the best known quotes in the western literary scene.

As far as the themes and motifs that form a deeper level to the novel, Dickens focuses much of the narrative space on ideas of entrapment, justice, and identity. The portrayal of Dr. Manette and his gradual rebirth after emancipation is intensely moving. The French Revolution provides fertile grounds for questions of justice and truth. Dickens insists throughout the novel that the people have been driven to this bloody end because of their suffering, and yet he doesn't let the violent peasants escape their own guilt, but foresees that they, too, will pay for their crimes. Indeed, one of the coldest characters in the novel, and certainly the scariest, is Madame Defarge, a leader of the revolution. She meets a harsh end, and every reader will breath a grateful sigh when it happens. The book consistently criticizes politics and the upper classes for their hand in oppressing people and destroying their own land, and voices the opinion that many generations will need to pass before the blood can be washed away. While the plot is swift and the characters are almost full-fleshed people, the novel also delves into a meaningful examination of several themes through discourse and metaphoric, descriptive writing. In other words, this book is well worth everyone's reading time. ( )
1 vote nmhale | Dec 21, 2014 |
Amazing! ( )
  Gorthalon | Dec 7, 2014 |
4.5 stars but I had to round it up!
A brilliant performance of a brilliant story. Well worth listening to.
( )
  Gorthalon | Dec 7, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 248 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (73 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Dickensprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ben Sussan, ReneIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Browne, Hablot KnightIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Busch, FrederickIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Busoni, RafaelloIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davidson, FrederickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Haaren, Hans vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jarvis, MartinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Keeping, CharlesIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Koch, StephenAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lindo, Mark PragerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maxwell, RichardEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nord, JulieEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
PhizIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pitt, David G.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prebble, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sanders, AndrewEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schirner, BuckNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shuckburgh, Sir JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vries, Theun deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilson, A.N.Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winterich, John T.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woodcock, GeorgeEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
Dedication
This tale is inscribed to the Lord John Russell in remembrance of many public services and private kindnesses
First words
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the 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.
Quotations
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.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
I wish you to know that you have been the last dream of my soul.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This is the main work for A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Please do not combine with any adaptation, abridgement, etc.
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Book description
Relates the adventures of a young Englishman who gives his life during the French Revolution to save the husband of the woman he loves.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141439602, Paperback)

After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille the aging Dr Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil lanes of London, they are all drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror and soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:30:07 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the aging Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine. This edition uses the text as it appeared in its first serial publication in 1859 to convey the full scope of Dickens's vision, and includes the original illustrations by H.K. Browne ('Phiz'). Richard Maxwell's introduction discusses the intricate interweaving of epic drama with personal tragedy.… (more)

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42 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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5 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141439602, 0141031743, 0141325542, 0141196904, 0141199709

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