Number of Pages: 480
Release Date: 1859
“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.”
This book was part of a summer reading assignment for my AP English class, and initially I was a bit wary. The only work by Dickens that I had read prior to this was A Christmas Carol in eighth grade, and thanks to my horribly boring English teacher I do not have fond memories of it. I was really hoping that this one would be better, and thankfully it was!
It took me a while to really get into this book. I think it was about one hundred pages before I really connected with the story and was eager to keep reading. Part of the reason was that I was a bit confused about what exactly was going on in terms of the history of France and Britain. Personally, I feel like this book would have been a better experience overall if I had read it in a classroom setting with some sort of history lesson to go along with it. Sometimes you can get away with not knowing the context that a book is set in, but I have a feeling that I would have enjoyed the story much more had I known the overarching picture of what these two nations looked like at the time.
Other than those minor complaints, I actually really enjoyed this book. I particularly loved all of the characters and how easy they were to imagine in my mind. Lucie was the flawless girl who all the other girls would envy, Doctor Manette was the wise and caring old man who you could turn to for advice, Charles Darnay was the charming and endearing gentlemen, and Madame Defarge was the rebellious woman who would not stop until she got what she wanted. Their personalities were vibrant and seemed to jump off the page. I felt myself really connecting with and rooting for these characters- well, at least the good ones, anyways. There was also an abundance of growth throughout the entire cast of characters, and you really come away from this novel with the sense that everyone in the story has changed somehow. Sometimes when writing is older or more challenging to read that characters sort of fall flat. Fortunately that was not the case here!
The drama and suspense of the revolution that the Defarges were attempting to develop was very engaging and exciting. Even without knowing a huge amount about the historical context of the story, I still was able to follow what was going on and why many of the French felt the way they did about aristocrats. I absolutely loved the ending of this book, despite the fact that it was bittersweet. It just flowed so perfectly with the rest of the story, and made logical sense when considering the characters that were involved.
Overall, A Tale of Two Cities was much more engaging, exciting, and suspenseful than I thought it would be. Once I got the image of old ladies knitting in the midst of all that chaos in my head, I was hooked! The story itself unfolded in a fascinating way, and the characters were absolutely brilliant. I will definitely be reading more of Dickens’ work in the future!
My Rating: 4 out of 5 smileys.
Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes!!
Have you ever read this book? What did you think of it? What other books by Dickens would you recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!