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Customer Review

38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read and a great gift, December 7, 2010
This review is from: A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations: Two Novels (Oprah's Book Club) (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. It features wonderful characters, particularly Miss Havisham, the rich eccentric who is arguably the basis for every kooky old lady character that came after her.

There was once a time when every school kid in the US was assigned to read Great Expectations in 7th grade English. If you are one of those, I encourage you to reread this novel, as I expect it will be surprisingly pleasant when not consumed under duress. It's a wonderful story with themes and lessons that remain resonant today, well over 100 years after Dickens wrote it.

So rush out and buy two copies of this double-barreled hit, one for yourself and one as a gift for your best friend.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 8, 2010 6:54:28 AM PST
Thanks for this helpful review, Bonnie. You bring me back to my college days. I was an English major and my roommate majored in chemistry. It was hard to believe we were both in the same world.

Posted on Dec 8, 2010 10:40:07 AM PST
J. R. Moore says:
Not trying to blast your review because any lover of Dickens is a friend of mine, but I think you have it backwards. Great Expectations is THE Dickens novel - the one to read if you read no other. A Tale of Two Cities is a great and enjoyable book, but it is quite non-Dickens when compared to the mostly character-related books in his ouevre: Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Dombey & Son, Chuzzlewit, Rudge, Nickleby -- he only has one other "historical" novel (Martin Chuzzlewit) that Tale of Two Cities can even be compared to. So, to make a long reply longer, if you were to only read TOTC you really have not experienced the Dickens that everyone knows and loves.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2010 12:05:54 PM PST
B. McEwan says:
Thanks for your comment, JR. I'm aware that AToTC is an anomaly in the Dickens ouevre and I appreciate your point. Nevertheless, I stand by my contention that AToTC is the master work. I will concede, however, that to truly experience Dickens one should read at least one of the other novels. My favorites among those are Great Expectations and Bleak House.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 10, 2010 1:17:44 AM PST
zashibis says:
@J. R. Moore. A pedantic correction: Dickens' other historical novel is Barnaby Rudge, not Martin Chuzzlewit. You're right, however, that Great Expectations is a far, far better book than A Tale of Two Cities. I've read most of Dickens' novels and would rank ATOTC near the bottom.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 10, 2010 7:52:48 AM PST
C. Neblett says:
I've read Great Expectations several times and love it. I've never read A Tale of Two Cities. My father's favorite Dickens book was Barnaby Rudge. Dickens is great. I am looking forward to reading A Tale of Two Cities.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 12, 2011 12:41:37 PM PST
debra crosby says:
I agree. I've read both and found Great Expectations to be merely vaguely interesting, as opposed to TOTC, which I found fascinating all the way through (and Sidney is much more interesting than Pip, in my opinion). However, I read both of these years ago, so I'm going to read both again, to see if my opinon has changed at all. If it does, I'll post it as my opinion, rather than fact, as some folks seem to be prone to do.

Posted on Jan 27, 2011 7:27:24 AM PST
debra crosby says:
I just re-read Great Expectations and loved it. I read it so long ago, when I was much younger, and believe that with age has come the ability to better understand Dicken's themes of regret and remorse. Beautifully written (some sentences I put a star next to, they were so wonderful), with characters that are diverse, endearing and sometimes perversely interesting, it stands for me as a classic Dickens work. Now to re-read A Tale of Two Cities, which I also read at a MUCH younger age. That book, however, stayed with me all these years. Perhaps it may be because I read it purely for enjoyment, rather than in English class!
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