Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities  by Charles Dickens   (1859, 428 pages, 524 KB)

The 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens will be on February 7, 2012.   Dickens has been a very important part of my reading life.  About fifteen years ago I read all of his novels in order of publication.   I read pretty much only Dickens during this period.   Shortly after I completed this  project I went to London and made a pilgrimage to the Dickens House Museum.   Since then I have read only one Dickens novel, Oliver Twist, for a read-along event.   

I wanted in some small way to do what I could honor Dickens so I decided I would try to reread two of his highest regarded works by his 200th birthday.

I choose to start with A Tale of Two Cities in part because of the many posts by book bloggers lauding the work.   Some consider it his best novel though most do give that honor to Bleak House.  

The novel takes place during the French Revolution, 1775.    I do not see a need to recap the plot.    I will basically say a bit about what I liked most about this work.  The two cities are London and Paris.  It its history the book has sold over  200 million copies.    

The opening chapter is perfect.   I cannot really recall many better ones.  If I had been a subscriber to All Year Round,  a literary magazine owned by Dickens, I would have been very eager to read the next installments.

Dickens is at his very best when he is describing the injustices of life in France. The scene where we learn that peasants on the estates of wealthy nobles were sometimes made to stay awake on the grounds outside the big house just to keep the frogs quiet so the nobles could get a good night sleep was just such a brilliant conveyance of a whole system of injustice in one sentence.

The scenes set in Paris during the worst excesses of the French Revolution are   to me the most exciting parts of the book.   

There is melodrama in this book and sentimentality and perhaps the book might be a bit "anti-French", a sure way to sell magazines is my guess!   

This is among the most serious, humor free of the novels of Dickens.   You can feel the passion of Dickens for the poor of France.   

I know this will seem a bit much, but as to reading suggestions for Dickens, I would say start with his first novel and read through to the last one.   

I think I am going to start Great Expectations soon followed by Bleak House.

In observation of Dickens 200th Birthday, Fig and Thisle is hosting an event  culminating on Dickens 200 Day which will enable those observing the event to share their posts on Dickens.    

Mel u


The Very Hungry Bookworm said...

I love Tale of Two Cities, and Bleak House is fabulous as well. I HATE Great Expectations. I don't know why, I just do. Have fun!

Harvee said...

Mel: you might like the black and white film, if you can get hold of it, a film which wo a lot of awards. Highly recommended and it sticks close to the novel.

Fred said...

Mel u,

_Bleak House_ is my favorite novel by Dickens. The BBC film version with Diana Rigg is my favorite, although the later one isn't bad either.

Fred said...

Mel u,

I forgot to mention that _Great Expectations_ isn't bad at all, especially the version with the original ending.

The second/revised ending contradicts or goes against the tenor of the novel. Dickens never should have given in to his publisher and readers.

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

I think this book has basically the best opening and closing line a book could ever hope for-pure perfection!

Mel u said...

The Very Hungary Bookworm-I hope I like Great Expectations on a second read-maybe it is too melodramatic?

Mel u said...

Harvee-I think I saw the old movie years ago-I would love to resee it soon

Bookworm1858-yes first chapter for sure the best and last one is way up there also

Fred-I downloaded the version on Gutenberg -glad to hear you liked both works

Darlyn (Your Move, Dickens) said...

Great post. I can't wait to start reading this next month. I'm currently reading Dangerous Liaisons by Choderlos Laclos which portrays the cruelties and atrocities of certain French aristocrats from a French point-of-view. It would be nice to compare the two.

Jillian said...

I just read this novel for the first time a couple weeks ago and ADORED it. I'm reading Bleak House now, and am about to start Great Expectations. :D