Sunday 20 November 2011
A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
I think most of Dickens books are famous but this one is probably more famed. Mainly for it's opening line. How many of us could quote it without having ever read the book? I know I could. Despite that I was a little hesitant in reading it. I was so disappointed with Hard Times and I didn't want that same disappointment. I was worried that maybe Dickens had lost it's appeal for me. I have to admit that at first I thought that worry was going to come true.
The book has an exciting start. Mr Lorry is on his way to Paris by coach. There is already turmoil in France and each traveler is suspicious of the other and so keeps to themselves. Mr Lorry and Lucie then arrive at the wine shop of Defarge and his wife. Again there seems to be some tension amongst the people and Defarge is keen to show Dr Manette off to others. This then filters away to them being back in England and settled some years. The story slows down and there are hints of things within this section that seem to be unconnected to the story. It was with impatience that I read the scenes of Mr Cruncher and his family. All very interesting had it anything to do with the story itself. Plus it wasn't the only thing that didn't seem to connect.
In the third part things get interesting again. The tension in Paris has built up nicely with characters we already know at the center. As I said already Lucie and her family and friends are dragged into these events and the book really takes off. It's in the last 100 pages of the book that all these scenes that annoyed me now make sense. They are actually connected and it adds to the tension of the story. I probably shouldn't have been surprised as Dickens is well known for his coincidences in his tales. I happen to like that aspect of his writing and it certainly made this book exciting.
My complaint about Hard Times was that the characters felt a little flat and that the characters I found interesting practically disappeared from the story. This wasn't the case with Two Cities. Sure the characters were stereotypical for the author but there were more to them. Each of them had an interesting back story and there were even one or two surprises in there for me.
A Tale of Two Cities has not only revived my faith in Dickens it is now my favourite of his books. Looking through the list though it would seem that I have mainly read his later books. When I next plan to pick up one I think I will read an earlier book (possibly his first) as an interesting comparison.
This was my classic book of the month.