Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tale of Two Cities

It occurred to me that although I had been working my way through the classics, I had never read a “real version” of a Dickens novel. Oh sure, I had read the children’s version of “Oliver Twist” and have been to see the play of “A Christmas Carol” probably 15 times… but I had never actually sat down and tried to read any real Dickens. Now I don’t know if this is a good place to start or not… but this is where I started.

It took a while to really get into the book, the language was a bit overbearing at first, and the characters were a bit hard to keep sorted out in my mind. But then we get to the release of the good Doctor Mannette things pick up… I was trucking along, managing with the language and then in the middle I became bogged down with confusion… I struggled for a chapter or two and then hit the last quarter of the book… and let me tell you, all of the confusion was worth it if only for the last chapter.

Dickens main characters are actually rather flat and one-sided, however he makes up for it with the power and intrigue in his supporting cast. Some of the supporting characters in this novel are among the most interesting and either lovable or detestable that I have encountered. With the engrossing backdrop of the French Revolution, and heads being lopped of by Lady Guillotine every other moment… this book really focuses not on the revolution, but on the effects of the revolution on a select group of people. The Title implies that this will be a tale predominantly about London and Paris, but in reality the title is very misleading. The crux of the true story is about Paris, and our character’s attempts to remove themselves from it.

I hate to say more, I went into this book knowing nothing about it, and because of that I was able to be shocked and almost brought to tears by the beauty and power of the ending. I highly recommend it, even though many will struggle through the middle, know that the ending is well worth the struggle. There is a reason this is listed one of the “1001 books to read before you die” there is a power to this story that will resound with you long after you close the book.

A Tale of Two Cities (Penguin Classics)

6 comments:

J.J.Edwards said...

With my compliment to your precision analysis on Dickens which tastes like sugar-free and assorted vitamin full comments I enjoy the whole treat on the table. I am going backward to the past reviews you posted yet hoped that it didn’t hinder the feedback. As you mentioned, “Dickens main characters are actually rather flat and one-sided” I think that’s one of those reasons that not many people got into the books so much as movies which ironically shows too faulty an element therein, for instance, to be appeal to modern mass audience. But he was popular in his day, though, wasn’t he?

I haven’t finished “Tale of Two Cities, and Oliver Twist” either. Specially the tale of two cities, I at first disregarded the opening, banal mixture of Proverb and Louis Carroll, funny to say it. Later again I looked it up, and concurred that it’s indeed a great writing, what a way of opening! Memorable lines, still. As you said, Oliver Twist is a hard reading, rather disconcerted in characters and writing itself too. What took my attention about him, is Dickens seems able to stage a new show in each and every book he wrote.

The power of emotion and shock which I dread, paradoxically now that you mentioned it, in the story seems to keep me away from facing and finishing it. You can laugh if you like. For nearly same reason I couldn’t drive to finish off Jane Austen; I want to savor the enduring hue as long as I can. What an absurdity my literary brain is wandering about!

Ravenskya said...

Never fear what order you read my reviews in - I dont do anything in order :)

I have yet to dig into Oliver Twist yet... it's in my list of books to read... unfortunately there are over 200 other books on that list all battling it out for who's next.

J.J.Edwards said...

Two hundreds to go, I admire your passion; I wish I could have that. Your remarks of "the tearful beauty on the last" of tale of two cities haunted me so powerfully as to nearly urge me to go dig the alluring priceless gem buried under the story piles of old parchment. But I am too tied up to do that currently. You know what? Just imagining what should have made you feel so and that express in such a fashion seems good enough to savor and share the thrilling hue, I guess. I am still fearful though the cold and cruel shade of content. That's why I am so scared of realism.

Ravenskya said...

I have found that it is easier to read those overly large novels online... that way you have no idea how huge they really are. I'm currently reading War and Peace, which I could never pick up as a book... I know me... it would never happen. But since I have no idea how little I've read, I can keep going in blissful ignorance and truely enjoy the story.

Arukiyomi said...

Thought you might be interested in heading over to Arukiyomi for a copy of the new version of Arukiyomi's 1001 books spreadsheet .

Along with calculating how many books you need to read a year before you die, there's all the 2008 edition books, all those removed from the 2006 edition, links to wikipedia , amazon.com and .co.uk and Google books.

Ravenskya said...

Thank you Arukiyomi... I actually already have both copies of your list.. they are fantastic. I heard about them through Goodreads.com and I recommend them to everyone I know.