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A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations: Two Novels (Oprah's Book Club) Paperback – December 6, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 101 customer reviews

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About the Author

One of the grand masters of Victorian literature, Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, in Landport, Portsea, England. He died in Kent on June 9, 1870. The second of eight children of a family continually plagued by debt, the young Dickens came to know not only hunger and privation, but also the horror of the infamous debtors' prison and the evils of child labor. A turn of fortune in the shape of a legacy brought release from the nightmare of prison and "slave" factories and afforded Dickens the opportunity of two years' formal schooling at Wellington House Academy. He worked as an attorney's clerk and newspaper reporter until his Sketches by Boz (1836) and The Pickwick Papers (1837) brought him the amazing and instant success that was to be his for the remainder of his life. In later years, the pressure of serial writing, editorial duties, lectures, and social commitments led to his separation from Catherine Hogarth after 23 years of marriage. It also hastened his death at the age of 58, when he was characteristically engaged in a multitude of work.
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Product Details

  • Series: Oprah's Book Club
  • Paperback: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (December 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142196584
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142196588
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.4 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #359,576 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. Koning on July 10, 2012
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is an unabridged version of Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities. This recording has a talented cast with consistent application of well-differentiated character voices. There is a narrator who reads the non-dialog portions of Dickens' novels. The chapters and headings are narrated. There are clear bookends on each CD telling you which CD it is and which CD is next in the series. The last few lines of one CD are repeated at the beginning of the next CD so that you know you have connected them correctly and have the context for the next portion of text. These are the features of what I call an excellent audiobook. The listener gets the author's imaging, setting, and context thanks to a full reading of the book. There are 35 hours of reading here. The two sets of CDs come in a very sturdy plastic library case with ring-bound jackets for each disc. Highly recommended!
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Format: Paperback
As usual, Oprah has picked a great book for her book club, only this time around she's recommending two books for the price of one, literally. And great books they both are. Charles Dickens is one of the towering authors of English literature. If you haven't read Dickens -- and I mean read, not just seen a movie -- you have a gaping hole in your knowledge and your literary experience.

A Tale of Two Cities is generally considered the better of these two novels. Some have called it Dickens' greatest, which is saying something when one considers the entire body of work from this outstanding author. At heart, Dickens is a story teller and A Tale of Two Cities relates a gripping story set against the backdrop of the French Revolution and the sweeping intellectual, political and social changes of the Enlightenment period.

The basics of the plot are relayed elsewhere, but I caution you not to read too much about the story line before you have read the novel, as one of the best features of Dickens is his ability to surprise and delight with the twists and turns of his plots and the events that challenge his characters. Great characters they always are too. A Tale of Two Cities is full of interesting peoples, as well as events. Sydney Carton, for example, is on my list of the ten best fictional heros of all time. (See my list here on Amazon.)

While Great Expectations is not as highly regarded as A Tale of Two Cities, it remains an outstanding novel. Think of Great Expectations as the Cadillac to A Tale of Two Cities' Rolls Royce. There's nothing wrong with a Caddy and Great Expectations delivers on all of the fronts you'd expect.
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Format: Paperback
With A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations as the new Oprah book selection, we have two very different styles of Dickens. My preference is Great Expectations, although many love A Tale of Two Cities also, as it is often read in high school. A Tale of Two Cities lacks the comic relief that most of the Dickens novels have, and there aren't many "Dickens-like" characters within the story. Also, A Tale of Two Cities is pretty cut and dry within its characterization; good guys are clearly good guys, and bad guys are the villains, and there isn't any gray area to speak of. Still, there is power with the message of what revenge and war bring. Within Great Expectations there is much more depth and dimensionality to the characters, both good and bad. I think that any Dickens novel has merit, and should be read because of its moral, message, themes and social commentaries. Now, you get two in one book.

A Tale of Two Cities centers on the English/French revolutionary war. We have our heroes (Charles Darnay, Sydney Carton) and villains (Madame Defarge and her revolutionaries). A Tale of Two Cities is a little different than most Dickens' novels in that it is more action-based and has a bleak, bloody perspective, being that it bases much of its tale on the historical aspects of war. The restless, chaotic nature between the two sides lends its way to various modes of revenge from many characters. Maybe one question explored is "are there times when revenge is acceptable, or does it always destroy the individual?" Also, differences between classes are evidenced as some poor go without while others prosper and live luxurious lives.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This has to be one of the best deals in audiobooks: two unabridged classic novels on 29 discs priced at under $20? The novels are both great, of course, but the readings vary in quality: one is mediocre, the other is amazing. /A Tale of Two Cities/ is an engaging story with some extraordinary passages of writing, but it is marred somewhat by a poorly chosen reader. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to have an American narrate Dickens? Narrator Buck Schirner did his best to vary his vocalizations to give life to the different characters, but too often his attempt to render British accents descended to caricature, his female voices were overly insipid, and for some reason he gave Sydney Carton an American drawl so that he sounded more like an Old West gunslinger than a debauched London lawyer. However, any deficiencies in the reading of /Tale of Two Cities/ are more than made up for by the breathtaking excellence of narrator Michael Page's brilliant rendition of /Great Expectations/, on which basis I'm happy to give this whole set a 5-star rating. Somehow he managed to give *every* character a distinctive, different, and wholly convincing voice--even the female characters, which most male narrators struggle with. His portrayal of Miss Havisham was so eerie and yet so utterly appropriate to her character and station it gave me goosebumps. This was one of those cases when listening to the audiobook was much more satisfying than reading the text would have been, because my own imagination would have fallen short of Michael Page's stunning rendering of all the characters. He has a new fan, and I'll be looking for his name on future audiobook purchases!
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