- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Wordsworth Editions (January 1, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1853260398
- ISBN-13: 978-1853260391
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 11,603 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Tale of Two Cities (Wordsworth Classics)
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From the Back Cover
A Tale of Two Cities is Charles Dickens's great historical novel, set against the French Revolution. The most famous and perhaps the most popular of his works, it compresses an event of immense complexity to the scale of a family history, with a cast of characters that includes a bloodthirsty ogress and an antihero as believably flawed as any in modern fiction. Though the least typical of the author's novels, A Tale of Two Cities still underscores many of his enduring themes - imprisonment, injustice, and social anarchy, resurrection and the renunciation that fosters renewal.
About the Author
Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, in Portsmouth, England,where his father was a naval pay clerk. He received some education at a small private school but this was curtailed when his father's fortunes declined. More significant was his childhood reading, which he evoked in a memory of his father's library: 'From that blessed little room, Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle, Humphrey Clinker, Tom Jones, The Vicar of Wakefield, Don Quixote, Gil Blas and Robinson Crusoe came out, a glorious host, to keep me company. They kept alive my fancy, and my hope of something beyond that place and time.'
When Dickens was ten the family moved to Camden Town, and this proved the beginning of a long, difficult period. When he had just turned twelve Dickens was sent to work for a manufacturer of boot blacking, where for the better part of a year he labored for ten hours a day, an unhappy experience that instilled him with a sense of having been abandoned by his family. Around the same time Dickens's father was jailed for debt in the Marshalsea Prison, where he remained for fourteen weeks. After some additional schooling, Dickens worked as a clerk in a law office and taught himself shorthand; this qualified him to begin working in 1831 as a reporter in the House of Commons, where he was known for the speed with which he took down speeches.
By 1833 Dickens was publishing humorous sketches of London life in the Monthly Magazine, which were collected in book form as Sketches by 'Boz' (1836). These were followed by the publication in instalments of the comic adventures that became The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (1837), whose unprecedented popularity made the twenty-five-year-old author a national figure. In 1836 he married Catherine Hogarth, who would bear him ten children over a period of fifteen years. Dickens characteristically wrote his novels for serial publication, and was himself the editor of many of the periodicals in which they appeared. Among his close associates were his future biographer John Forster and the younger Wilkie Collins, with whom he collaborated on fictional and dramatic works. In rapid succession he published Oliver Twist (1838), Nicholas Nickleby (1839), The Old Curiosity Shop (1841), and Barnaby Rudge (1841), sometimes working on several novels simultaneously.
The appearance of A Christmas Carol in 1843 sealed his position as the most widely popular writer of his time; it became an annual tradition for him to write a story for the season. He continued to produce novels at only a slightly diminished rate, publishing Dombey and Son in 1848 and David Copperfield in 1850, his personal favorite among his books.
From this point on his novels tended to be more elaborately constructed and harsher and less buoyant in tone than his earlier works. These late novels include Bleak House (1853), Hard Times (1854), Little Dorrit (1857), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), and Great Expectations (1861). Our Mutual Friend, published in 1865, was his last completed novel, and perhaps the most somber and savage of them all. Dickens had separated from his wife in 1858. He had become involved a year earlier with a young actress named Ellen Ternan and the ensuing scandal had alienated him from many of his former associates and admirers. He was weakened by years of overwork and by a near-fatal railroad disaster during the writing of Our Mutual Friend. Nevertheless he embarked on a series of public readings, including a return visit to America in 1867, which further eroded his health. A final work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a crime novel much influenced by Wilkie Collins, was left unfinished upon his death on June 9,1870, at the age of 58.
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Ebenezer Scrooge is a cranky banker who wants nothing to do Christmas. He won’t give his employee, Bob Cratchit, time off so that Cratchit can spend the holiday with his family—including his ailing son Tiny Tim. He chases off charities. He won’t even accept an invitation to attend the Christmas party thrown by his nephew, Fred. Then one night, he’s visited by the ghost of his recently deceased business partner—Jacob Marley. Marley, who was as cheap and crotchety as Scrooge, is burdened with horrifying chains, and the ghost warns Scrooge that if the old man doesn’t change his ways, he—too—will end up wandering through eternity in a similar set of chains. Before disappearing, Marley tells Scrooge to expect visits from three more ghosts.
The three subsequent visits with the famous ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future don’t require much discussion. First of all, the names of the ghosts (e.g. Ghost of Christmas Past) are self-explanatory. Secondly, this story is iconic in pop culture and it’s been remade in every medium in every way imaginable from modern adaptations (e.g. “Scrooged”) to “Simpsons” episodes. At any rate, the first ghost shows Scrooge that there was a time when he wasn’t such a curmudgeon while reminding him that he once had an employer, the beloved Mr. Fezziwig, who was a much better to Scrooge than Scrooge is to Bob Cratchit. The second ghost takes him to see the Cratchits and their meager but blissful Christmas festivities and then to his Nephew’s party as well. The final apparition, The Ghost of Christmas Future, takes Scrooge to the end of his own line. In the wake of the four ghost visits, Scrooge makes some changes to avoid the fate he’s been shown.
The Puffin Classics version that I read has an introduction by Anthony Horowitz and some artwork. That said, I don’t think it matters much what version one reads. It’s about the story.
I’d highly recommend this book for all readers.
If you are looking for the original version this is NOT it though!
Can't imagine not reading this at Christmas time. I have several versions of this classic on DVD and watch them every year but reading "A Christmas Carol" is still the best.
This year I have a Kindle Fire HDX and using Whispersync for the narration of it was another plus. A chance to try it out for free. The person narrating had a voice that has the emotion and tone for each character, that fit Scrooge and the rest of them to a "T".
The illustrations throughout the book were fun to look at. Not common to find illustrations in books today unless they are children stories.
Lots of great quotes come from this story but the most famous is BAH! HUMBUG! followed by:
"God bless Us, Every One!"
When our kids were young we would read this aloud over 5 nights leading up to Christmas. At first the 19th century language may sound stilted; but stick with it and within a few minutes you'll pick up Dickens' wonderful cadence.
If you have an evening to spare, I urge you to read it as well so it might have a similar effect in you