A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Trigger Warning: This novel and it’s review contain descriptions of and mention the following topics: violence, beheading, death.

Goodreads Rating: 1 Star

Year Published: 1859


I adored Oliver Twist, but I just could not get into A Tale of Two Cities. I even tried different medias- audiobook and movie adaptions- hoping that one of them would grab my attention. Now I don’t leave you all hanging, so here is a short summary of the book.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

In 1775, Mr. Jarvis Lorry and Lucie Manette travel to Paris to meet Lucie’s biological father, whom she believed dead. Her father, Dr. Manette, has just been released from The Bastille, a French fortress used as a prison. He’s had a mental break, and upon reuniting with his daughter, begins to regain his mind. They Jarvis and Lucie take him back to London

Five years later, Mr. Charles Darnay is tried for treason, and Mr. Sydney Carton, a man who looks just like Mr. Darnay, proves that there is doubt within reason of a positive identification of Mr. Darnay being guilty- therefore he is acquitted. Then, Mr. Darnay, Mr. Carton, and Mr. Stryver (a lawyer on the case) all fall in love with Lucie. She eventually falls for Mr. Darnay, who on their wedding day reveals to Dr. Manette that he is a French nobleman who renounced his title.

Word arrives to London that Mr. Darnay’s uncle has been murdered in bed, and that Darnay is next in line. Only Dr. Manette and Darnay know about this information, but Darnay has to return to Paris, and upon him doing so, he is arrested for conspiracy with his uncle for crimes against the French people. Dr. Manette, Lucie, and Mr. Carton (who has stated his undying, selfless love for Lucie and those she loves) all travel to Paris to find a way to free Mr. Darnay. Mr. Carton plans to sacrifice himself for Darnay, and unearths a murder plot against Lucie from the Evrémondes, who originally put Dr. Manette in the Bastille for witnessing an assault on them. He uses his connections and gets into Darnay’s cell, drugs him, and has his connections escort him out of the prison while Mr. Carton takes his place (because they look so much alike!)

The Manettes and Mr. Darnay flee to London, and Mr. Carlton dies at the guillotine, having saved Darnay, Lucie, and their child.

Now, I actually started this one back in June (I know! But I’m a Type A planner and I like being ahead of schedule) and gave up on it in July, just hoping one of the mediums would change my mind, but alas, I struggled with this classic, and hereby officially DNF it. I find this sad because it does sound so good, and I know many who have had to study this novel found it to be a favorite, but I am officially not one of them. Maybe someday I’ll come back to it.

What Makes it a Classic?

As Dickens’ twelfth novel, this book is outside of his typical foray. It was one of his most read novels, but also one that also divided his fans. Some loved his experimentally brutal and action-packed novel, while others missed his satirical, humorous, and heartwarming writing that they’d come to expect from the author. For that reason alone, it allowed a debate to continue for generations over the merits of the book. Additionally, it gave the literary world one of the most famous opening lines- see quote above.

Have you read A Tale of Two Cities? What are your thoughts on it? What medium do you recommend?

TL/DR: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is a classic novel about two men who switch places, and the two cities that they called home.

Read it? I personally think you should try, but if you can’t read this book, I’m not going to judge. 

Recommend it? I struggled with this read, so I wouldn’t recommend it. I’d probably go for one of his other classics, like Oliver Twist or A Christmas Carol.

Buy it? Yes. There’s copies everywhere since it’s such a popular classic, and if you’re looking to add to your classic literature collection, this one is an obvious buy.


Categories: Book Review, Classic Literature, Fiction

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