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A Tale of Two Cities (Barnes & Noble…

A Tale of Two Cities (Barnes & Noble Classics) (original 1859; edition 2004)

by Charles Dickens, Gillen D'Arcy Wood (Introduction)

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23,05830050 (3.93)4 / 886
Title:A Tale of Two Cities (Barnes & Noble Classics)
Authors:Charles Dickens (Author)
Other authors:Gillen D'Arcy Wood (Introduction)
Info:Barnes & Noble Classics (2004), Paperback, 448 pages
Collections:Your library, To read, TBR-owned but unread, ROOT 2015 - To Read (inactive), TBSL, E-book, ROOT 2014 - To Read (inactive)

Work details

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)

  1. 180
    Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (krizia_lazaro)
  2. 110
    The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska, 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.
  5. 10
    The Glass Blowers by Daphne du Maurier (buchstabendompteurin)

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Showing 1-5 of 288 (next | show all)
Liked it! The ending had me turning pages until I was done. I found the end notes extremely distracting to the flow of reading,a necessary evil tho. Classic Dickens. ( )
  LauGal | Aug 16, 2016 |
I love reading Dickens, but I did not love reading this book. I doubt that it’s in the curriculum any more, but I can understand a blogger who recently wrote that he avoided Dickens for years after being forced to read it. True, it opens and closes on two of the most memorable, and quoted, sentences in English fiction, and it contains some stirring scenes. There’s also a satirical tone in many places, comparing the grandiose pretensions of the English nobility with the imperiousness of the French. The tone initially suggests some of Dickens’ usual humour, but it is far more bitter than usual with Dickens. This turns into the deep pathos of a broken man and his daughter, to be followed by the triumph of love (both familial and romantic), reversal and finally rescue and transcendence. The transcendence is big here.
But it’s a general humourlessness and shallowness that makes the book hard to read for me. Dombey and Sons, the last Dickens novel I read, was perhaps equally somber in tone, but it had sympathetic characters and psychological depth. In Two Cities, the only sympathetic character is old Dr. Manette, wrongly imprisoned in the Bastille for 16 years and psychologically fragile when released. His friend, the banker Mr. Lorry, is surprisingly sympathetic as well, although a side character to the central events of the story. The other lead characters are so thinly drawn that they have no real presence. Lucie Manette is a typical Dickens heroine, devoting her whole life first to her father, then to her husband. Charles has apparently renounced his French title in disgust, but we know little about him beyond his nobility of character and courage. Both are idealized stereotypes that I never felt any connection to, so when they first find happiness, then tragedy, I found myself wishing they’d just get on with it and bring the story to its end.
Even the minor characters, usually so interesting in Dickens, hold little interest. Jerry Cruncher and his young son seem to be there only to entertain the English working class readers, but they add nothing to the storyline. The French nobles seem to be deliberately drawn as indistinguishable archetypes, while the French revolutionaries are so exaggerated that they are more like scary nineteenth-century cartoons than even Dickens’ usual figures. Dickens, while acknowledging their oppression, portrays the residents of the countryside, and particularly the St Antoine district of Paris, as terrifyingly out of control, insane and diseased. This contrasts starkly with the orderliness of Lorry’s good English business sense, and the common sense of Miss Pross, Lucie’s nursemaid and friend. The French revolutionary mob is a scarecrow, built out of the most frightening elements, but a hollow creation.
Was this because Dickens’ abhorrence and fear of the French revolutions, writing just 10 years after the wide-spread upheavals of 1848, drove him to choose to demonize everything about it? The novel seems to be as much a propaganda piece against working-class revolution, and in support of British stability, as it is a paean to true love and noble virtue. Unfortunately, this thought makes me suspect many of Dickens’ other popular works. Dickens is known for his depictions of the oppressed and impoverished life of the English working class, and this is reflected here in his many references to the extreme poverty and privation of the French peasants and labourers. But the reaction that he depicts in France is so ignorant and brutal, and unbalanced, that it appears to be a warning to English readers not to do anything rash in trying to overcome the conditions he depicts in England. The novel comes across as profoundly conservative and reactionary, and makes me wonder about his actual political leanings (particularly after becoming a wealthy property owner himself). Perhaps the most charitable reading of the novel is as a warning to the English upper classes to avoid oppressing the working class so much that they have no alternative but revolution. But I think his readers are more likely to be lower or middle than ruling class, so this message, if that’s what it is, is not well directed. ( )
  rab1953 | Aug 12, 2016 |
Would give it six stars if I could. Lump in my goddamn throat. No words. No words at all. Please, please read this book.


Let me count the ways that I love this book. Actually, no - I cannot quantify my love for it. This book is one of the most absorbing and affecting things I have ever read. The prose is utterly perfect. The characters are perfect. The setting is arresting (no pun intended). I didn't think I would love a Dickens novel more than David Copperfield, but this is easily in my list of not just favourite books, but objectively best books I have ever read.

I understand why some people aren't fond of Dickens. His style, particularly grammatically, is very different to what most people expect from their reading. For example, he's deeply fond of commas, which seem to have died a bit of a death over the last century. And there are places in some of his novels where it does read like he was paid by the word. If you've ever had trouble "getting into" him, I'd recommend this as the perfect place to start; it's not as long as some of his novels, and, to my mind at least, there isn't a single piece of filler in it. Quite simply, this is a masterpiece.

I had previously read a children's retelling of the story when I was a child (Top Ten Dickens, which I highly recommend for youngish children - it's hilarious and it also has a lot of stuff in it about Dickens himself) and the story affected me similarly then, as it did now, if vastly less so. As such, I knew how the book was going to end. I did worry that this would cushion the book's impact somewhat. If anything, it heightened it. Sometimes, when you know what's coming, you spend the entire book anticipating - in this case dreading - it, and that was what I felt happened here.

Dickens's prose in this book is gorgeous. He builds the entire narrative from a few strands - a seemingly innocuous beginning - into a rich tapestry, the backdrop being the French revolution, and not a word is wasted. His pacing is excellent. So many authors could learn a lesson from this (including Dickens himself in other books) - you don't need to write thousands of pages about anything. Most stories can be told in far fewer words than that, and told better (not that I'm saying that all 1000 page books are unnecessarily long, but the vast, vast majority could do with being cut at least a bit). Dickens does a great job of building up dread, even in the places where it feels like there shouldn't be any, at all - for example, when Charles and Lucie get married. You don't ever feel like you're being rushed through event, but the pace is also never languorous. This is a beautiful book, evoking so much despair, and yet so much hope.

And the characters. What bastards some of them are. The only thing I could possibly, possibly have asked for is perhaps a little more depth to Lucie, but that's really by the by - she did occasionally seem like a bit of a "doll". Madame Defarge was deliciously brilliant though, her vendetta revealed little by little along with her depths - the way Dickens slowly uncovers more and more of her true nature and the reasons behind it is nothing short of genius. Miss Pross was also wonderful, and the comparison drawn between her and Defarge towards the end, mirroring a running theme of the relative powers of love and hate, is stunningly realised. And, oh, Sydney. You are responsible for having one of the greatest book ending monologues that has ever existed.

I don't want to say too much about the ending - as much as I think knowing what happened in some ways enhanced the book for me, it might not for others, and I obviously don't know what it's like to experience the book totally unspoiled. But it is, in my opinion at least, one of the most satisfying reading experiences I have ever had. And I'm reasonably sure that, had I not known what was coming, I wouldn't have been able to work it out until the last minute, despite how obvious it seems once you do know? Although, I can't say for certain; I might be wrong!

Who should read this book? Genuinely, there is no one to whom I would not recommend this. This is a book about human nature, about the power of love, but perhaps, even more, about the power of hate. It's a book that plays with big ideas, but never loses its human core - unlike so many other novels, it doesn't get bogged down in its own importance. It is a book that perhaps feels slight at 420 pages, but is in fact the perfect length. Truthfully, the only thing that could get in the way of the enjoyment of this is, I suppose, personal taste; however, I honestly think this book is a thing of beauty, and should be required reading for anyone with a soul that craves words. Five stars is not enough. This book has stolen my heart. ( )
  thebookmagpie | Aug 7, 2016 |
Such a disappointment. A shallow story with so many "flat" characters who didn't sustain my interest at all. One of the few books in my life that I've stopped reading halfway because I just couldn't be bothered. ( )
  manishch | Aug 2, 2016 |
English Literature
  CPI | Jul 29, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (72 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dickens, Charlesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Arbonès, JordiTranslatorsecondary authorsome 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
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
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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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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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)

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5 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

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