February 20, 2014
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (Review)
Author: Charles Dickens
First published: 1854
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
I must confess I haven't read enough Dickens in my life. I read Oliver Twist when I was a child and I remember it was gloomy and depressing and rather dull. In my teens I read an adapted version of Nicholas Nickleby for my English classes and all the while I was reading it I was wondering why write two books with the same plot. In my defense I can only point out that it was again all about a small boy against the world and that I wasn't paying much attention. In the university I pretended to read only highbrow stuff and gave The Pickwick Papers a try. I struggled through the first half of it and then gave up. It was funny in the beginning, but then it became repetitive and unbearably detailed. Or maybe I was just impatient due to my flourishing and complicated private life at that time :)
The first Dickens I actually liked was A Christmas Carol, which I read a year ago. I could finally appreciate the writing, and the story was not overly long. Then was an unhappy choice of The Old Curiosity Shop, which left me totally frustrated when I finally finished it after dragging through it for three months.
So overall my experience with Dickens was not very enjoyable. However, I am happy to announce that I've finally found a Dickens novel I LOVE, and this is of course A Tale of Two Cities. I was expecting a difficult read, and it was rather difficult in the beginning, but then I got used to the writing and I totally loved it! The descriptions are very vivid and metaphorical, the narrative flows in and out of places and people's heads, and oh the repetitions! How I loved the repetitions! There is something from music in them...
Apart from choosing a setting which cannot be dull per se - the French Revolution, Dickens has knitted (yeah, this word!) a wonderful and gripping plot for his book. Parts of it don't make sense in the beginning, but then everything falls into place. Some things are of course predictable, but that makes them long-expected rather than boring. And the ending is just... Well, you need to read it yourself, because my writing is unequal to giving it the credit it deserves.
I'd like to particularly note female characters in this novel. Usually Dickensian women are either saccharine and useless or mad and evil. Here, however, they have more depth. OK, Lucie IS stereotypically sweet, but she also has quite some courage and is surprisingly tough. But think about Therese Defarge! I don't think I've seen anybody quite like her in literature! "A great woman, <...> a strong woman, a grand woman, a frightfully grand woman!" And consider Miss Pross with her brave "you shall not get the better of me. I am an Englishwoman". Overall, according to Dickens, women made revolution. They suffer, but remember, persist, support their husbands and never give up. That's quite impressive!
In my book:
An exceptionally well-written novel! My favourite Dickens so far! :)