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A Tale of Two Cities (Penguin Classics)
Stock image - cover art may vary
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0141439602
ISBN-13: 9780141439600
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Release Date: May, 2003
Length: 544 Pages
Weight: 12.64 ounces
Dimensions: 7.72 X 5.04 X 1.1 inches
Language: English

A Tale of Two Cities (Penguin Classics)

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Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Richard Maxwell.

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Customer Reviews

  Awesome - my favorite Dicken's novel!

I like all of Dicken's work because of his ability to bring a place and period to life as well as his gift for creating round characters that seem like real people you can reach out and touch. This novel certainly represents these qualities, but has a dark quality with no type of comic relief. It is intense and it captures the psychological and emotional climate of the the French revolution in a visceral way.

This novel which parallels the rise of the French revolution, compares and contrasts life in two cities Paris and London. It also develops a very intricate plot that is difficult to follow if one does not read steadily. In other words, it's not a light plot that you can set down for a few days and pick back up. On the other hand, it's extremely engaging and you won't want to put it down.

When I read it, I actually bought the Cliff's notes because I needed to set the book down for a few days at a time. When I picked it up again, I found the Cliff's notes useful to help me engage again without a lot of looking back through the book for all the twists and turns in the plot and lives of the characters.

This is a great novel in every respect, but it is not a happy one. It captures the harsh reality of the French Revolution in deep way. If you are studying the French Revolution, I would say it's a must read to truly get the spirit of what was going on. I don't believe history books can do it justice, you need the inside view which this provides.

Lastly, if you are simply enjoy a good story, you will like this. Don't expect a "everyone lived happily ever" type ending, however. This is heavy stuff, almost in the spirit of a Russian existentialist novel.
  Monseigneur is too a major character

I was prompted to write this review for a pretty silly reason. You see, I was on Amazon to buy some scripts, and I stumbled across the page for 'A Tale of Two Cities' and started casually reading the reviews, and one reviewer a few months back stated that the chapter 'Monseigneur in Town' was far too long, and, well, I was mortified. Apparently this, probably the most important chapter of the book, was overdrawn in its description of the Monseigneur. What this reviewer does not seem to grasp is that this 'minor character' not only sets the entire plotline of the book into motion, but also is a symbol for the depravity of the society that the rebels overthrow. This overwrought portrayal of his lifestyle is what allows us as readers to sympathize with the cause of the new government, which is absolutely necessary to the overall book. Without that feeling of camaraderie with the french underclass, how are you to feel the deep betrayal that comes apparent with the end of the story? The injustice of it all is just so much more poignant, and, well. Gosh.

I suppose I'm prejudiced. This was my favorite book that I read in class throughout High School, which was surprising, since I'm usually more of a 20th Century American literature kind of a boy. So what attracted me to this particular book over, say, 'The Catcher in the Rye' or 'The Great Gatsby'? It's hard to say. It's just a story that's not only fun to read, but is also extremely well written, and is good for you to boot. Don't get me wrong. This is by no means the best book I've ever read. But it will forever hold a place in my heart. And I hate Dickens. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is this: give it a chance, ok?
  Turbulent times in London and Paris

The period from 1775 - the outbreak of the American Revolution - to 1789 - the storming of the Bastille - is the turbulent setting of this uncharacteristic Dickens novel. It is his only novel that lacks comic relief, is one of only two that are not set in nineteenth-century England and is also unusual in lacking a primary central character. London and Paris are the real protagonists in this tale, much as the cathedral was the 'hero' of Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris. Dickens was writing at a time of great turmoil in his personal life, having just separated from his wife, and no doubt the revolutionary theme was in tune with his mental state.

The result is a complex, involving plot with some of the best narrative writing to be found anywhere, and the recreation of revolutionary Paris is very convincing. The device of having two characters that look identical may seem hackneyed to modern readers, but it is here employed with greater plausibility than in Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson or Collins's The Woman in White.

Dickens was inspired to write this story by reading Carlyle's newly published history of the French Revolution. Those events and their aftermath stood in relation to their time much as World Wars I and II do to ours, that is, fading from living memory into history, yet their legacy still very much with us. In many nineteenth-century novels, especially Russian and British works, you get a sense of unease among the aristocracy that the revolution will spread to their own back yard. In the case of Russia, of course, it eventually did.

I have often recommended A Tale of Two Cities as a good introduction to Dickens for younger readers. This is based on my own experiences, because it was a set book in my English Literature class when I was 15 and I remember thoroughly enjoying it. Yes, it is challenging, with its somewhat archaic language and its slow development, but you cannot progress to an enjoyment of great literature without being challenged.

  An awesome tale of the horrors of political revolution!

What an interesting thought.

If it was possible for Dickens to write something that was less Dickensian than the rest of his impressive body of work, "A Tale of Two Cities" would qualify as the least Dickensian of them all. An absorbing historical work, a sharply moving forward tempo, little if any comic relief and a minimum of florid prose (at least relative to his own characteristic standard of an abundance of unnecessary embellishment) make A Tale of Two Cities a tense, somber, compelling and moving piece of work that is the shortest, yet perhaps most well known, of his major novels.

The characters, as one would expect from Dickens, are still ambitious, magnificently described creations - Charles Darnay, son of the Marquis Saint Evrémonde, who moves to England and disowns his heritage as part of the ruling French aristocracy; Darnay's look alike, Sydney Carton, a hard-drinking ambitionless lawyer who comes at last to the realization that his life has been wasted; Lucie Manette, the typical Victorian heroine, who lives and loves with a faint heart, teary eyes and heaving bosom; her father, Alexandre Manette, who barely survives a long imprisonment in the Bastille and recovers his health and his reason only in the nurturing environment of his family in England; Jarvis Lorry, the man of business, the Tellson's Bank representative in Paris and the steadfast family friend of the Manettes; Ernest and Thérèse Defarge, the maniacal, metaphorical representatives of France's working class who evolve (or might that be devolve) into the citizens and citizenesses of a post-revolutionary French Republic; and, of course, Jerry Cruncher, a close to the edge Londoner, who makes his dubious living as a "resurrectionist", that is, a procurer of recently deceased corpses for medical research.

Covering the history of London and Paris during the period from 1775, just prior to the onset of the American Revolution, to the storming of the Bastille in 1789, the height of Robespierre's Terror, and the daily bloodshed of the close shaves of France's barber, Madame La Guillotine, A Tale of Two Cities dwells on a multiplicity of themes - romance; unrequited love; altruism; the terrors of revolution; the evils of class distinctions; the power of friendship; the terrifying ability of power to corrupt; and the amazing ability of a faith in God to comfort through troubled times.

If you're already familiar with Dickens, but have yet to read "A Tale of Two Cities", run to the nearest library or bookstore, curl up by the fire and read it as soon as you can. If you have yet to try your first Dickens novel, this is a fine place to start. Compose yourself and relax. Be patient and take the time to discover Dickens' style of writing. With the possible exception of Wilkie Collins, I don't believe there's another author who could have got away with writing complex, enormously lengthy paragraphs that, upon hindsight, the reader will discover were but single sentences. Of a sudden, you'll discover you're at the end of the novel. And, I defy you - I defy you - to read the last chapter of "A Tale of Two Cities" without finding a lump in your throat.

Paul Weiss

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

So begins one of the greatest books ever written (in my own humble opinion), about injustice, love, horror, fear, hate, and sacrifice. It's powerful and mindblowing, and made me stay up till midnight on a schoolnight just to finish it, when I had to wake up at five o'clock -- and I already knew the ending. It's that good.

The characters are real and incredible; Dr. Manette is a doting father and strong person (the scene in which he tries to begin shoemaking again directly after Darnay's second imprisonment is miserable to read about, and sad in its own way), Lucie Manette is a courageous and strong person too, though not the focal point of the book, Charles Darnay, while not super-developed, is also realistic. But the character that truly makes this book a masterpiece is Sydney Carton. Melancholy, a drunk, almost friendless, in love with a woman whom he wants to be rid of him, and enigmatic, he is a fascinating and tragic person. Reading the scenes of him strolling around the streets the night before Darnay's to-be execution, brooding and silent, I wondered why they had been put in, but thinking back on it I know. It was essential to his character and the plot, like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, preparing quietly and almost sadly, but with a fierce inner joy as well.

The ending almost made me cry, it was that powerful. Now, despite the fact I know I might be disappointed, I'm desperate to rent the movie.

"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."

Rating: Masterpiece