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A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities (original 1859; edition 1984)

by Charles Dickens (Author), Hablot Knight Browne (Illustrator), Marjorie Houspian Dobkin (Afterword)

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27,24035869 (3.93)4 / 1109
Title:A Tale of Two Cities
Authors:Charles Dickens (Author)
Other authors:Hablot Knight Browne (Illustrator), Marjorie Houspian Dobkin (Afterword)
Info:The Readers Digest Association, Inc. (1984), Edition: 1st, 399 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)

  1. 180
    Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (krizia_lazaro)
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    The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy (MarcusBrutus)
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    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.
  5. 11
    The Glass Blowers by Daphne du Maurier (buchstabendompteurin)

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English (341)  Spanish (10)  Swedish (2)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  Danish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (358)
Showing 1-5 of 341 (next | show all)
Whenever Dickens is mentioned, it’s not so much what people say, but rather what they don’t say. Often, it’s a tell-tale look on their face- a frown or scrunching of the nose like they just detected a bad odor in the air, or the tone of their voice when they repeat his name that indicates an unpleasant reaction. Inadvertently I was led to believe his writing was dull and boring and Dickens was an old stodgy conservative Brit. Is it any wonder "A Tale of Two Cities" is my very first experience in reading Dickens? And what a pleasant surprise.

"A Tale of Two Cities" not only begins with one of the most well-known lines in English literature, but ends with one of the most quoted lines as well. Dicken’s opens with, “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 spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

The most important feature of the novel is the theme- social injustice, seeking vengeance, and committing evil deeds in the name of the common good. Love and self-sacrifice are also heavily emphasized. Not much different from Mao’s China and Stalin’s Russia, which were both epic illustrations of committing evil in the name of the common good, France experienced their own social injustice as mob mentality reigned and the common people committed devastating massacres in trying to gain freedom and equality. Dickens opening line says it all.

Dickens was one of the first authors to ever draw attention to the unjust economic and social conditions of the citizens of Victorian England. In most of his writing he generally was rooting for the under-dog. But in "A Tale of Two Cities" the plot takes an unusual twist. Dickens aspired to help England see that social reform was needed so they would never sink to the depths of depravity that France experienced during “The Reign of Terror’ described in "A Tale of Two Cities". And the closing line, by the novel’s unexpected hero, “It is a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done…” – so sad, so inspirational, so indicative of Dickens faith in humanity to eventually do the right thing.

Dickens excels in plot development. A Tale of Two Cities begins with a slow meandering pace weaving together some rather dull events that seem insignificant. The writing style is a bit choppy and abrupt. But Dickens is very clever. He knows exactly what he is doing. Not a word is wasted, every scene in the story ties in with the plot. As the story progresses the pace accelerates, the tension builds, and mid-way through it turns into a stunning page-turner with a magnificent ending. It is no wonder this novel written 160 years ago is still a popular classic. ( )
  LadyLo | Jun 25, 2019 |
Frankly, I was disappointed in the book. It seemed to me to be the French Revolution told in story form to 8- year olds.
There is some great language in the book, particularly in the opening paragraphs, but it is patchy. In places the language dwindles down to a florid, highly theatrical mode of translation. Of course, the many repetitions do create a certain poetry, and there is dark humour in places, but this does not compensate for the prosaic-ness of the book as a whole.
The characters are all stock portraits. Dickens does not make any effort to individualise them. Lucie Manette is an angel and a Barbie doll rolled into one. Dr. Manette, Sydney Carton and the others have their personalities superimposed upon them by the author. They do not emerge or grow organically, through their thoughts, words and actions. In fact there was so much potential in the character of Sydney Carton, to explore what drives him, but Dickens wastes this opportunity. The characters are all puppets with no life of their own, whose strings are pulled by the author.
1 vote kumariprabhu | Apr 27, 2019 |
I have always totally enjoyed Dickens. I knew that the opening line is oft quoted but not that the last line is also oft quoted. I wasn't surprised there would be a switch of some sort. I am glad to have once again dabbled in how crowd rule can be so unruly. ( )
  gayjeg | Apr 25, 2019 |
To offer a very controversial opinion... I did not care for this book.

Victorian literature is really hit or miss for me. I'm a character reader and if I don't connect with the characters, I find it very difficult to get invested in the story. There's not much depth to these characters and like other popular novels of the period, Dickens fills his story with conversational dialogue. It is through dialogue we learn backstories, plot twists, moral dilemmas, relationships, setting - everything. The narrative we receive is brief and direct. It's not my favorite style, but it's efficient enough.

Because I had a hard time relating to - or indeed, keeping straight - many of the characters, there was no emotional investment for me in the tale of the Manette family and the grievous wrongs they suffered. Even the backdrop of the French Revolution failed to dazzle. Simon Vance has a rich voice and I enjoyed his narration, despite the tedium of the writing (again - this is completely personal to my preferences). Between Simon Vance's narration and my sheer determination to read more Dickens, I was able to persevere through this one, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't bored.

All in all, I can see why this story is a classic. I can see why people love it. I would watch a movie of it, where the characters have more emotion and depth to them because of the actors... but this book was solidly not for me.

Though! Of the whole book, I have to give mad props to the scene between between Madame Defarge and Ms. Pross. I found it the most heated, most emotive part of the book and absolutely found myself cheering for Ms. Pross. That last bit, at least, was brilliant. ( )
  Morteana | Apr 17, 2019 |
I enjoyed this classic tale of revenge and sacrifice, set against the backdrop of the bloody French revolution, when anyone’s life was easily forfeit on someone’s malice; justice and compassion gave given way to massacre and paranoia.

Dickens gave the blueprint for modern movies and TV shows. The story with its twists and turns can end on cliffhangers after each episode; character development is thrown in between action; secrets are discovered throughout, but there is plenty left to the end.

We have archetypal characters: the old, tenderhearted doctor who is willing to do anything for his daughter. The angelic, beautiful, loving daughter who obeys her father and is ready to swoon whenever the plot requires to be protected by strong men. The honest, noble young man who is wrongly accused. Comic relief characters; cruel villains; men who have doubts but cannot stop the villainy.

The writing is often flowery, but there are lots of humorous moments, and Dickens excels in delivering the drama. Tale of Two Cities is just right - not overwritten, and the ending is fitting - bith giving the reader a relief and a tragedy as well.

I have listened to the audiobook, excellently narrated by Simon Vance. ( )
  Gezemice | Mar 8, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 341 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (108 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dickens, Charlesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abernethy, Julian W.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Arbonès, JordiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ben Sussan, ReneIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bordoy Luque, SalvadorTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Browne, Hablot K.Illustratorsecondary 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
Lesser, AntonNarratorsecondary 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
Rackham, ArthurIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sanders, AndrewEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schirner, BuckNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shuckburgh, Sir JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vries, Theun deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wagenknecht, EdwardIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wiggins, Evelina OakleyEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilson, A.N.Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winterich, John T.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woodcock, GeorgeEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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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.
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.
Last words
(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
Haiku summary
Two men look alike.
They love the same good woman.
They’re all in danger.

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:50 -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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 103 descriptions

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