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A Tale of Two Cities (Ignatius Critical Editions) Paperback – June 15, 2012
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From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up—Charles Dickens's classic tale of one family's suffering during the French Revolution is brought to life in this audio adaptation. The voice of Audie Award-winning narrator Simon Vance sets the tone for the characters and creates the Dickensesqe mood of the times when the rich and the poor were far apart and no one was exempt from the ensuing wrath during the Revolution. Vance's stone varies from soothing to animated while creating different voices for the characters and using appropriate accents. A bonus feature on the last CD is an e-book in pdf format that can be printed or used as a read-along while listening to the audio. This easily navigated feature would be particularly helpful for struggling readers.—Jeana Actkinson, Bridgeport High School, TX
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“[A Tale of Two Cities] has the best of Dickens and the worst of Dickens: a dark, driven opening, and a celestial but melodramatic ending; a terrifyingly demonic villainess and (even by Dickens’ standards) an impossibly angelic heroine. Though its version of the French Revolution is brutally simplified, its engagement with the immense moral themes of rebirth and terror, justice, and sacrifice gets right to the heart of the matter . . . For every reader in the past hundred and forty years and for hundreds to come, it is an unforgettable ride.”–from the Introduction by Simon Schama --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
"A Tale of Two Cities" begins in 1775, with Mr. Lorry, a respectable London banker, meeting Lucie Manette in Paris, where they recover Lucie's father, a doctor, and mentally enfeebled by an unjust and prolonged imprisonment in the Bastille. This assemblage, on their journey back to England, meets Charles Darnay, an immigrant to England from France who makes frequent trips between London and Paris. Upon their return to England, Darnay finds himself on trial for spying for France and in league with American revolutionaries. His attorney, Stryver, and Stryver's obviously intelligent, if morally corrupt and debauched, assistant, Sydney Carton, manage to get Darnay exonerated of the charges against him. Darnay, a self-exiled former French aristocrat, finds himself compelled to return to France in the wake of the French Revolution, drawing all those around him into a dangerous scene.
Dickens portrays the French Revolution simplistically, but powerfully, as a case of downtrodden peasants exacting a harsh revenge against an uncaring aristocratic, even feudal, system. The Defarge's, a wine merchant and his wife, represent the interests of the lower classes, clouded by hatred after generations of misuse. Darnay, affiliated by birth with the French aristocracy, is torn between sympathy for his native country in its suffering, and his desire to be free of his past.
"A Tale of Two Cities" is a novel driven by historical circumstance and plot, much like the works of Sir Walter Scott, wherein the characters themselves assert less agency, finding themselves forced to deal with the tide of epic events. Richard Maxwell's introduction to this newest Penguin edition does a good job outlining the themes of doubling and literary influence that Dickens works with. One specific influence I discerned in reading "A Tale" that Maxwell doesn't metion is Edmund Burke's "Reflections on the Revolution in France," which if nothing else, gives the feeling that the rampant violence of the early revolution and the later Reign of Terror has brought about an irreversible change in human nature. While Dickens remains cautiously optimistic throughout the novel that France can recover, the tone of the novel speaks to the regression of humanity into a more feral, primal state, rather than advertise any real hope for its enlightened progress.
Despite the supposed dichotomy between England and France in the novel, Dickens seems to suggest throughout that there are no real differences, due to the way that human nature is consistently portrayed. With England in between two revolutions, American and French, Lucie's sensitivity early in the novel to hearing the "echoing" footsteps of unseen multitudes indicates a palpable fear that the "idyllic" or "pastoral" England he tries to portray is not exempt from the social discontent of America or France. In this light, stolid English characters like Miss Pross, Jerry Cruncher, and Jarvis Lorry appear to almost overcompensate in their loyalty to British royalty. In a novel that deals with death, religion, mental illness, I could go on and on for a week, but I won't. One of those novels whose famous first and last lines are fixed in the minds of people who've never even read it, "A Tale of Two Cities" demands to be read and admired.
Years later, I picked up this book and reread it. I considered this a labor, not of love, but of duty. This book is so famous and used so often in English literature classes that I felt I had to read it again for a deeper understanding. What I got from this book a 2nd time around is a profoundly subtle yet accurate sociological and psychological study of what happens to a society and a community that is built on shaky foundations. Specifically, France was an aristocracy where a tiny minority owned all the land. The rest of society was organized into tiers that varied in their opportunities of becoming landowners. Because of this pyramid structure, most of the people hewed to the social order knowing that yes they get crapped on by those above them, but there's always somebody below them to take advantage of.
Eventually this social Ponzi scheme comes to a screeching halt with the French Revolution. Enough people have had enough that they decide to start over. In the process a lot of people get killed and a lot of property changes hands. So woven into this story of a society's collapse are individual tales of woe, revenge, sacrifice, retribution, love and lust. Some are wrongly imprisoned or executed, while others willingly trade places to free those who have been marked for punishment. Families are torn asunder, and friendships are made and betrayed.
Overall, this book is a classic; though not appropriate for anyone not in their mid-teens yet. Its careful depiction of a society warrants its reading for those interested in 18th century Western history. But it should be read with notes and study guides for its depth and complexity can easily lose the interest and focus of many readers.