Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens [1859]

Sadly, sadly, the sun rose; it rose upon no sadder a sight than the man of good abilities and good emotions, incapable of their directed exercise, incapable of his own help and his own happiness, sensible of the blight upon him, and signing himself to let it eat him away.
- Book Two: The Golden Thread, Chapter 5: The Jackal

Sometimes I get nervous before I review one of my favorite books. Partly because I'm not smart enough to really understand the book in a deeper way, and partly because I'm afraid people will think I'm overselling my point.
But I've made the decision (yes, sometimes you have to decide these things) that I don't mind if people on the internet think I'm stupid or silly, so I'm going to charge ahead on with it. Oh, and there WILL be spoilers in this review. But seriously, if you don't know how it ends, I'll be really surprised.
A Tale of Two Cities is a relatively short book, but it packs quite a punch, at least for me it did. Before I get to why it packed such a big punch, let me get the flaws out of the way first. Because even awesome books have flaws.
For starters, the first chunk of the book drags a bit. Don't get me wrong, it's not exactly boring or turgid, but you start to wonder when this famous Sydney you've heard so much about is going to show up... I also got slightly annoyed with Lucie. I mean, she's practically perfect in every way, and has the required golden hair to boot. As the book went on, some of her deeper qualities showed through (fortitude and patience, for starters.), so it's not like she's a total china doll of a character. But still. Dickens could have made her a little less typical. So yes, there were a few little issues, but when this book is good, it is good. I didn't even mind the heavy-handed foreshadowing.
Something I love about this book is that the action and plot are relatively tight. There's always something of interest going on, and pretty much all the characters serve a purpose to the plot. The characters are pretty good. Not the most developed or whatever but sue me, I like them. Especially Sydney Carton, Mr. Lorry, Charles Darnay, Miss Pross- aw the heck with it, I pretty much liked everyone! Except for the Marquis, of course. I kind of feel a little sorry for the Marquis though. He strikes me as what you get when a spoiled child grows up. With nothing to hinder him or show him the error of his ways, he just got worse and worse. In terms of antagonists though, Madame Defarge is both more sympathetic and terrifying. At the same time.
 And then there's Sydney. I could ramble about Sydney for ages. Don't get me wrong, Charles is awesome. If given the choice between the two, I would probably rather hang out with Charles than Sydney (cuz' you know, sobriety), but Sydney's a more interesting character. His heart is very sensitive, but his mind is cynical and pessimistic, and that stifles any optimistic thoughts that he might dare to think. At least at first, anyway. His development is really good, and Sydney is one of my favorite fictional heroes. And while we're still on the topic of characters... Mr. Lorry is such a sweet man. He goes on and on about how he's nothing more than a 'man of business', but it's quite clear that he's much more than that.
Now, unfortunately for me, I knew of the ending before I was even halfway through it. Long story short, I was sitting in a library, waiting around to die, and I had forgotten to bring the kindle with me. I saw a copy of Tale of Two Cities on the shelf, and I decided I could find my spot in the book and make some progress. Out of habit, I looked at the back cover, and saw the following... "A Tale of Two Cities is the sweeping drama of Sydney Carton- who dies in the place of  Charles Darnay, the husband of the woman he loves."
Yeah. It was awful. I was like this:
And this at the same time:
Now that's a man...
Then I thought about it for a while and...
So children, this is a cautionary tale. Don't ever read the backs of books you haven't finished. Ever. EVER.
But knowing how the book ended offered a new perspective on Sydney's character as I read. I knew what was going to happen, but even so it was interesting to see all the pieces falling into place.

The Verdict: A+
I think it's quite clear that I liked this book in a big way, so at this point the verdict is just a formality. ;) It's been a while since I've read a book that made me simultaneously teary-eyed and uplifted. I feel a little silly maybe, since this 100+ year old book is to me what The Hunger Games and The Fault in Our Stars is to other teenagers. Aw well! Tis the curse of the isolated homeschooler. ;)
Just kidding, we're not isolated, I've actually been outside once or twice this  year! >:D
Oh, and in autumn... heh, heh. That is when the awesomeness begins. Mwhahahahaha. AUTUMN IS COMING!!
And no, I don't watch Game of Thrones. I just like referencing the 'Winter is Coming' thing. Ha.
I'll uh, go now, this tiny text is getting really awkward. D:


  1. HAHAHA. Don't ever feel silly about liking ATOTC over THG/TFIOS. I do too! :P And hey, I like a two-thousand-plus-year-old Book over every other one ever written, so...;)

    1. *high five* Huzzah!
      Ah, I wonder if It's the same two-thousand-plus-year-old book that I read too! :D

  2. Whaaat, they spoiled Sydney Carton's death in the book's back cover? That's horrible! That's like mentioning who the murderer was in the back of a detective story! Oh well. I'm glad you enjoyed the book anyway, it's one of my absolute favourites in the world. Few other books have made such a huge impact on me as this one.

    1. It is kind of hard to find anyone who doesn't know how it ends, so maybe they just figured it didn't matter? It's baffling, but the book is so good that spoilers don't rob the ending of any of it's power. ^_^


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