Rummanah Aasi
In January 2011 I created a top 10 list of books that I resolved to read by the end of the year. I only completed three of the ten, but the one book that I really wanted to read and cross off my list is A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I was so proud to finish the book and I no longer have a guilty English major conscious.

Description: After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the ageing 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.

Review: As I mentioned in college, I was an English major and I loved reading from the Victorian period but I could never manage to read a full Charles Dickens novel. Believe me, I've tried Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and even Great Expectations. I struck out with all of them. In fact I tried reading Great Expectations several times and have failed to pass page 10 without falling asleep at the exact same paragraph. I was determined that in 2011 I would finish one book by Dickens for my Victorian reading challenge. I chose to read A Tale of Two Cities because I was interested in the French Revolution and also because of its brevity. To my astonishment, I stayed awake throughout and actually really enjoyed reading large sections of the book.
 The plot for A Tale of Two Cities is widely known so I won't bother going into the details. So what made this book different from the other ones I've tired and failed to read? For one thing, Dickens doesn't spend too much with description and adding an influx of characters that come and go. I was able to follow a group of characters from the beginning to the end with little confusion. Some would argue that Dickens more attention to the Revolutionaries in France and the book lacks character development, which is a good argument since Charles Darnay and Lucie Manette are kind of one dimensional. I, however, was more drawn to Sir and Madame Defarge who are the book's catalyst. As a reader you are suppose to be appalled by their lack of compassion and blood thirstiness, but I couldn't help but sympathize and whenever they appeared on the page I paid more attention.
  I have to say reading a historical fiction novel from the Victorian period was really interesting. While there are parts of the book that are completely bias, I didn't get the sense that Dickens opposed the concept behind the revolution. He could have easily made the protestors uncivilized and ignorant, but their plight is accurately expressed and you can't help but get caught up in their emotion after suffering so many injustices. 
 While I'm glad that I finished and enjoyed A Tale of Two Cities, I'm not willing to rush back and reread it anytime soon. Perhaps if I do a little more research into the French Revolution and then read it with a critical eye, I would be more inclined to do so. I'm just happy with my own little personal milestone.

Curriculum Connection: Social Studies

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong violence that reflected what happened during the French Revolution.

If you like this book try: City of Darkness, City of Light by Marge Piercy, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Madame Tussad by Michelle Moran, The Pale Assassin by Patricia Elliot
3 Responses
  1. I read this in 10th grade. I liked it at the time but didn't really appreciate it - mostly because it was assigned to read over Xmas break and I procrastinated. I think I'd like it better now.

  2. The only Dickens I've managed to get through was A Christmas Carol, which I enjoyed. I've picked a few up, but just can't seem to get invested enough to get through all that prose....

    Congratulations on making it! Maybe I'll try this one, since I've recently read Madame Tussaud, and I loved Donnelly's Revolution. I might be able to relate better with that background.

  3. I'm in the same boat! I've been reading David Copperfield on and off for YEARS! I've got the rest of his works, including this one on my bucket list. Though I kind of feel like I don't really need to read them since I already know all about what happens in the story. LOL

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