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Showing 1-10 of 868 reviews(4 star, Verified Purchases). See all 5,786 reviews
on June 21, 2015
The novel is great as one would expect from Dickens. It gives a very graphic description of life in England during Dickens's time. I was not pleased with the Dover edition for its numerous typos. Dickens writes in a very stylistic parlance of his time and his characters are recognizable by the very deep personal understanding of their speech patterns. However, there are numerous sections where misspelled words could not be concealed by the dialogue, making the reader stop and lose the flow of the prose. Once the typos are fixed, the edition gets the last star from me.
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on June 23, 2014
I choose this book, even though it cost 2$ instead of 1$ like some versions, because I wanted to get some pictures. I'd say I got my money's worth and nothing more. The pictures are there and they are fine, but there aren't as many as I had hoped--not as many as one per chapter, and they are rather simple line drawings--almost cartoonish but they aren't that bad. They're nothing like the full color painting on the front cover, so don't think you're getting that kind of "pictures."

I write this assuming you know already whether you'd like the story or not. If you actually don't know what it is about I can say that, although it is a little dated, I liked it very much. It stands on its own as a good novel today quite apart from the reputation of its author or its social and historical importance. The plot seems random and disjointed for about the first half of the book; I couldn't figure out why Dickens kept putting in little snippets here and there about minor characters and odd events. Don't worry, he draws it all together at the end. Nothing is superfluous; remember everything that happens, it is all used by the last page. In addition to being a compelling story and historically informative, A tale of Two Cities is interesting for the even-handed way that Dicken's paints both the French rebels and their oppressors. It seems like most books on the subject try to vilify one or other of the two parties in the revolution. Dickens vilifies them both equally and harshly; you come away from the book pitying and loathing both. Some of the best writing is toward the end when the heroes are trapped in revolutionary France; Dickens describes the eerie, anxious, surrealism of anarchy brilliantly. I'll never forget the death dance, the Carmagnole.
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on October 2, 2016
I love this story.

I'm a read aloud mom with a family of boys, and they LOVED this story! Very enthusiastic listening.

The thing with Dickens is all the characters are people. Every one is a portrait and a caricature at the same time. My kids drew while I read this aloud to them.

A great story about the misery inflicted by the politics of revenge. Still apt today.

This edition is not high quality. The paper is very bad and the ink stinks.
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on November 19, 2015
This is one of the most challenging but also rewarding books I have ever read in recent years. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …” thus the story famously opens. This monumental historical novel has the French Revolution as its background and its rich content and profound meanings can engage one’s interest for a long time. Compared with other books Dickens wrote in his literary career, this novel is singularly different and least Dickensian. This view of mine is largely formed from my previous experience reading his other novels. So it’s better not to start reading Dickens with this book if you don't want to ruin your interest in his other works which are truly Dickensian and much easier to read and understand.

Three aspects make this book a hard read. Firstly, the historical backdrop. The story is set in London and Paris of late 18th century when French was in a social turmoil that culminated in the French Revolution, while England was in a peaceful bliss God can ever bestow on a country. If the French Revolution sounds so remote and unfamiliar to you, which is mostly likely true to a lot of people, you must find yourself lost at even the beginning of the book and can’t proceed any further. So, some reading of this event beforehand is necessary. Secondly, the language. Dickens wrote this book in 1859, close to the end of his career, when Victorian literary language was still in fashion. His descriptive language is especially darker, more rambling than what I know of it in some of his other novels such as The Christmas Carol, Great Expectations and Oliver Twist. Thirdly, part of the story is told through a series of seemingly unrelated episodes that come only together at the later part of the book. To some, this structure may be perplexing if they don’t read earnestly. This aspect is likely to cause one to lose patience or stop reading it all together if he doesn’t know this effort will be surprisingly paid off at the end.

Though challenging to read, it’s a moving and thoughtful story, thus worth the effort. Dickens creates a host of vivid characters caught up in a chaotic era in depicting the French social upheaval through their love, loyalty, compassion, sacrifice and vengeance. It is a relentless display of human morality, of its bright and dark side. It’s said this story has helped popularize this historical event for generations. But reading this book without studying this event from other sources can hardly tell if Dickens has presented an accurate picture of history and its significance. So, it’s a work worth re-reading and studying than simply reading once for fun and forgetting.

Now a sketch of the main story.

This is year 1775. From London, Mr. Jarvis Lorry and Miss Lucie Manette take a journey to Mr. Ernest Defarge’s wine shop in France to bring the French native Dr. Alexandre Manette back to England after he has been unjustly imprisoned in the notorious Bastille for 18 years. Lorry is a bank agent, a venerable old fellow with high integrity and loyalty to his business. Lucie is Dr. Manette’s young, beautiful and loving daughter. After 18 years of life in prison, Dr. Manette is on the brink of madness and has lost his memory and his only activity of interest is making shoes by himself. Under the tender care of Lucie, her father is gradually brought back to normal life though with occasional relapses.

After five years, a young French tutor named Charles Darnay is on trial for his crime of passing secrets pertaining to the American Revolution to the French. Lucie and his father are witnesses to testify Charles’s innocence based on their impression of him when they came to England on the same ship. But due to his physical resemblance to the lawyer Sydney Carton in court, he is acquitted and they all become friends. Lucie and Charles fall in love with each other. Carton is not a professionally successful person. He also shows considerable admiration for Lucie. Though his bold proposal to Lucie has been declined, she is always special in his heart. Charles and Lucie are married with a lovely daughter.

Now the roaring wave of the French Revolution is surging high. French aristocrats and their descendants become the targets of attack of the revengeful revolutionaries. Charles Darnay is from an aristocratic family with the true name Charles Evremonde. One day he receives a letter of his family’s former tenant begging him to come back to Paris to save him from prison under unjust accusation. Charles leaves London for Paris on this mission, but his true identity is immediately detected in Paris and he is thrown into prison. Lorry is on his business too at this time in Paris, but he doesn’t know this mishap initially. Lucie, Dr. Manette and Carton come to Paris with special travel passes to rescue Charles. Luckily, Dr. Manette enjoys a high popularity among the revolutionaries due to his sufferings in Bastille. His words in court have magically saved Charles’s life and they reunite. However, fate makes a quick turn against Charles. He is immediately arrested again before they return England and incriminated with evidence contained in Dr. Manette’s own secret notes he wrote when in jail. In the court, these notes are read.

Dr. Manette’s notes record how he was imprisoned: One day he was intercepted by a carriage when he was walking. The carriage belonged to Evremonde brothers, and they carried him to see a patient. When there, he saw a young girl and her young brother, both badly wounded and were dying. As he was told by them, they were tenants of the Evremonde family and one of the brothers raped and tortured the girl and the boy was fatally wounded in a sword confrontation with the Evremonde brother who wronged the girl. This Evremonde was also Charles’s father. Both the girl and the boy died very soon. Dr. Manette wrote a letter to the government to reveal Evremonde family’s crime but it fell into their hand and he was incarcerated in Bastille. In these notes, Dr. Manette vowed to bring the Evremondes, including their descendents, to justice.

After these notes are read, Charles loses the last ray of hope to win against the overwhelming urge from the jury for his death. People are furious about the crime of his aristocratic ancestors. His living as an emigrant in England only does him disservice. The verdict is made and he will face execution on guillotine.

Through a spy, Sydney Carton secures admission to the prison cell in which Charles is confined and causes him to temporarily lose consciousness and exchanges their clothes. Thus Carton stays on in the cell and Charles is stolen out of the jail and flees to England using Carton’s travel permission in the company of Lucie, Doctor Manette and Lorry following the design carefully conceived by Carton. Charles’s life is spared while Carton perishes heroically on guillotine for his love and compassion.

It’s a touching story. I give it a four-star rating since it’s such a brilliant, though a bit challenging, literary masterpiece.
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on March 5, 2012
Being an avid Dickens fan means that I have become well-read in Dickens' works. I find that his seemingly most famous works - Olive Twist and Tale of Two Cities - are also some of my least favorite of his. Oliver Twist is a traditional Dicken's book, but Tale of Two Cities attempts to be historical. While most of his works take about a hundred pages to really get into, I found that Tale of Two Cities is less gripping than his other works, perhaps stifled by being accurate more than being descriptive. David Copperfield, Nicholas Nickleby, Chuzzlewit etc. have the distinctive elements of a Dickens novel. The humorous names, the humorous personalities and the wandering story-line because his characters are wandering people, all make a Dickens novel what we have come to expect. Personally, I think that you can gauge Dickens' writing style with Nicholas Nickleby, Oliver Twist and David Copperfield, but with Tale of Two Cities, it sounds like Dickens, but doesn't really have his passionate feel. Don't judge this author by this book alone.
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on June 8, 2017
Finally got to reading this classic and I have no regrets in doing so. It was slow in the beginning and took me longer to read than many other books but the last quarter was intense and had me in suspense. This is a love story entwined within a time of chaos, a shift in power from corrupt aristocrat to vengeful peasant. I like the end but it left me wanting more.
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on April 22, 2012
I absolutely adore Charles Dickens. His beautiful, poetic language, coupled with some of the courser English dialects spoken by some of the characters, makes for some very colorful scenes in the story. Additionally, his subtle humor often catches the reader by surprise, and makes it all the more hilarious. For example, when Mr. and Mrs. Bumble, two not-so-charming people, find themselves in a parish workhouse and divorce, Mr. Bumble is described as being so miserable that he forgets to be thankful to be rid of his wife.

Much of the story is sad, and there are some parts that are downright heart-breaking. However, the recurring idea of this story is hope. Hope that lives through innocence. Oliver is faced with some horrifying circumstances, and all throughout, he maintains his innocence and good heart. In the end, his purity shines through and is ultimately rewarded.

This book looses a star because it seemed like Dickens would go off on tangents that had nothing to do with the main story. After a while, it would become distracting. This book lacked the concise story-telling of some of his other works.
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on January 31, 2013
I've always had the suspicion that underneath the noble facade of revolt and social justice vs. exploitation existed a dark seedy underbelly of indiscriminate frustration and rage that did not make concessions for goodwill or sympathy. Thanks to Mr. Dickens, I've had my fill of reading such fictional accounts that may very well have done justice to capture the unbridled hate and chaos that was the French Revolution and subsequent "Terror". Through the protagonist(s?) and auxiliary players, Dickens has conveyed the entire spectrum of human emotion and capacity for reason. While some characters did seem relentless in their rather unrelenting vulnerability, hatred, or haplessness, the metamorphosis of some characters through their experiences in jail, despair, and euphoria tempered by the reality of the revolutionary machine seemed to add enough complexity to elicit admiration of the personal growth and redemption of these key players in the novel.

Certain parts are melodramatic, to be certain. But overall Dickens' portrayal of the gloomy atmosphere of France during and post revolution don't seem exaggerated. Liberté, égalité, fraternité...or death.
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on February 24, 2014
Oliver Twist is a tale that clearly showed Charles Dickens' brilliance as a wordsmith and storyteller. In the book there were many moments of narrative subtlety that, as a reader, were thrilling to experience. This book, along with his others, cements Dickens' masterful naming of his characters as second to none, only rivaled in modern times by J.K. Rowlings. Oliver Twist himself is a memorable character who is quite affecting. One can't help but marvel at his optimistic outlook despite the almost overwhelming challenges he faces. My criticism of the book was that this complex story was too coincidentally tied together despite improbable complexity. Yet despite this flaw, the story is still a wonderful read proving why it's a timeless classic.
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on April 21, 2017
Mandatory reading when I was in grammar school, had to reread to see why. After many years between reading and rereading I still do not understand why it was mandatory. Once into the book it became more interesting but would not say it is one of my favorites. Guess I have
to say Charles Dickens is not one of my favorite authors. Glad that I did reread though.
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