Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens

It was the best of Dickens, it was the worst of Dickens. . .

Ah, Dickens! I’m not so sure that my “year of Dickens” should start with A Tale of Two Cities, but it has. Why? I chose this particular title because it is one of his shorter novels, and it is one of the few novels with which I am not familiar. I’ve seen many novels dramatized on Masterpiece Theatre, but not this one!

In a nutshell, the two cities are London and Paris during the revolutions of America and France. Some characters live in France, some live in England, and some will move between the two countries. The French love the guillotine and hate the aristocracy. And they won’t stop until they’ve killed everyone they possible can.

But what about our characters? Well, there’s Lucie Manette, a beautiful young woman saddled with her less than sane father, Doctor Manette, who suffered greatly while imprisoned in the Bastille. Lucie marries Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat. And there’s Madame Defarge, who knits a lot. She likes a front row seat for the guillotine action (and knits right through the violence). Anyway, these characters are not particularly Dickensian.

In fact, this novel is not particularly Dickensian. Where is the detail? Where are the colorful characters? Where is the humor? They’re not here, dear Reader. Instead, we’re treated to a fast-paced novel that depends more upon plot than dialogue or character development. It’s not bad, but it’s not what I had expected. Still, I’m glad that I read it.


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