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A Tale of Two Cities

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3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  666,575 Ratings  ·  12,795 Reviews
'Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death; -- the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!'

After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the ageing Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but
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Paperback, Penguin Classics, UK / CAN / USA, 489 pages
Published January 30th 2003 by Penguin (first published 1859)
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Sarah A Tale of Two Cities is definitely a challenging novel, so please don't feel discouraged if you're not getting as much out of it as you hoped! It is…moreA Tale of Two Cities is definitely a challenging novel, so please don't feel discouraged if you're not getting as much out of it as you hoped! It is true that the novel takes a bit of thought and, for lack of a better word, work to get through. But for all the obstacles, I do believe that it was worth every painstaking second!

The best advice I can give you are as follows:
1. Download a dictionary app on your mobile and keep it near you while you read. It's a quick way to improve comprehension. And Dickens really loved his vocab words!
2. If you ever come across a sentence or paragraph which you can't quite understand, the best thing to do is read it one (or two) more times, and just move on. If you can just get the general gist of what Dickens is trying to say, then you're doing great! Try not to get too hung up on parts you don't understand.
3. If there is a point in the plot which is a bit confusing, briefly skim over the section once, lock that moment in your mind, and move on. A Tale of Two Cities is like a drama. The first half is the set up, and may be crazy confusing, but everything comes together in the end to paint one amazing picture.
4. Try going to summary sites like litcharts or sparknotes. I really recommend litcharts, which gives you a detailed summary of what happened in the novel, and also gives analyses. Here's the site: http://www.litcharts.com/lit/a-tale-o...
5. Buy an annotated edition of A Tale of Two Cities. If you get the Barnes and Nobles edition, they'll give you footnotes and endnotes, which really clarify the historical and political situation. I'm not quite sure of Penguin Classics' endnotes, since I stick to B&N, but both companies are very good.

Again, this is a really challenging book. I really hope you decide to push on with Dickens, because he is worth it at the end! But I also completely understand if you want to take a break and lay the novel off to the side for a bit. There's nothing wrong with taking a break from a book!

Best wishes~(less)
Zaphirenia Very highly recommended. Even though I read it as a child, I remember very clearly the impact that left on me. Dickens is one of the greatest writers…moreVery highly recommended. Even though I read it as a child, I remember very clearly the impact that left on me. Dickens is one of the greatest writers of all time and this is certainly a great book.(less)

Community Reviews

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Melissa Rudder
Jan 23, 2008 Melissa Rudder rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teach-it
My primary goal when I'm teaching A Tale of Two Cities to my sophomores is to make them realize that Charles Dickens didn't write creaky, dusty long novels that teachers embraced as a twisted rite of passage for teenagers. Instead, I want them them to understand why Dickens was one of the most popular writers in England and America during his time. I want them to see the book as the suspenseful, comedic, and sentimental piece of entertainment that it is. Because, while A Tale of Two Cities is ma ...more
Emma
Apr 25, 2012 Emma rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
Christ on a bike - I’d forgotten how much concentration Dickens demands.  
 
Reading the first few chapters of this book was, frankly, a chore. I could not be less bothered about The Mail and the more Dickens banged on about that never ending carriage journey the more I daydreamed about the next book I was going to read once this torture was over. I’m glad I didn’t give up though because as soon as we hit France and the wine shop I was hooked, the pace started to pick up and there were mysteries a
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Leslie
Feb 09, 2008 Leslie rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lyn
Dec 01, 2011 Lyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hundreds, thousands of stories long to have a quotable verse, just one.

Tale of Two Cities, Dickens masterpiece as far as I'm concerned, is bookended by two of the most recognizable quotes in all of English language.

This is also the darkest story I have read of his, and no doubt, it's about the bloody French Revolution and Dickens spares none of his acerbic wit to demonize what was rightly demonic. Yet, to his credit and genius, neither does he sugar coat the great social injustices that led ir
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Laura
Jun 12, 2008 Laura rated it it was amazing
Years of teaching this novel to teenagers never dimmed my thrill in reading it — if anything, I grew to love it more every time I watched kids gasp aloud at the revelations! Critics are divided on its place in the Dickens canon, but the ones who think it an inferior work are simply deranged. It has everything: dark deeds, revolution, madness, love, thwarted love, forgiveness, revenge, and a stunning act of self-sacrifice. And melodrama! Oh, how Dickens loved melodrama, but in A Tale of Two Citie ...more
Kalliope




A TALE OF TWO TALES


Reading Dickens’s approach to historical fiction, at first I could not help but remember Romola, which I read recently. And even if Romola seemed to have more of a Victorian than a Florentine Renaissance tone, the story and the context were very nicely woven together.

While with A Tale I felt I as reading two separate stories. One was a the result of conscientious research, and Dickens in his Preface acknowledges Carlyle’s wonderful book, and the other was a more melodramati
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Bookdragon Sean
Jan 17, 2014 Bookdragon Sean rated it liked it
Charles Dickens is a demanding writer. The narratives of Great Expectations and Oliver Twist are relaxed and simple when compared to this. Reading Dickens requires concentration, and a will to carry on when sometimes the writing gives you a headache.

This is a historical novel. Dickens tells the story of the storming of the Bastille, some fifty years after it happened. Unlike most of his work, all traces of humour are removed. There are no caricatures and quirkiness within his writing. This i
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Jason Koivu
Nov 22, 2008 Jason Koivu rated it it was amazing
Hands down my favorite Dickens' I've read yet! It's got love, sacrifice, revenge, revolt and other exciting verbs! I'm a big fan of a solid marriage between character development and action. A Tale of Two Cities is well-wed. Some criticize Dickens for his trite stories and overblown caricature-esque characters. Yes, the man wrote some less-than-perfect books. He wrote them for a wide-ranging public and he wrote for money. High-minded prose eloquently crafted may garner praise, but it doesn't alw ...more
Michelle
Feb 21, 2016 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read this in high school as a substitute for "Oliver Twist" which was not in my high school library catalog (it was in the elementary school catalog). Come to think of it now, I have never read that book. Weird... If ever I get a chance to meet "high-school-me", I bet she will be over the moon and back to know that the world is her library! Any book, on demand! I guess it would distract her enough not to realize she's living an almost hermetic way of life. Anyway... "A Tale of Two Cities ...more
فهد الفهد
قصة مدينتين

استعرت هذه الرواية من مكتبة الجامعة في بداية الألفية، كان ذلك قبل عالم الانترنت، عندما كنا لا نلتقي ولا نتعرف على الكتب ومشاهير المؤلفين إلا من خلال الصحف أو الكتب التي تسقط بين أيدينا اتفاقاً، ديكنز كان مألوفاً لي حينها، كنت قد قرأت له دايفد كوبرفيلد، وأعرف موقعه كروائي إنجليزي عظيم.

حصلت على الكتاب الضخم، المغلف من قبل الجامعة بغلاف صلب، والمختوم مراراً كجواز سائح كوني، كنت غراً حينها، جديد على كل العوالم التي أمامي، فلذا حملت النسخة الضخمة محاولاً قراءتها خلال مهلة اليومين التي تم
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Pouting Always
Some how my review of this got deleted which is good because I think after sitting a while I can appreciate the book more. When I read it it was confusing and slow and then towards the end really picked up and I was kind of disoriented but it gives a really good view into things in the period before the French Revolution. Learning about it was one thing but reading this made me very sympathetic of the peasants and angry on thier behave, honestly surprised they didn't start rioting sooner.
Jean
Dec 22, 2016 Jean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness ... it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair”

So begins A Tale of Two Cities, a perennial favourite. It was an instant success when it was first published, and its popularity has remained steady ever since, as one of the best selling novels of all time. For many, it is their most loved novel by Charles Dickens.

A Tale of Two Cities is Dickens’s second shortest completed nov
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Duane
One of the greatest novels ever written. I've never seen a ranking that didn't include this novel. If you have ever wondered what it was like to live through the French Revolution, then read this novel. Through Dickens' words you feel the anger, the hopelessness, the insecurity, and most of all the fear that enveloped everyone. It was a pleasure and a privilege to read this masterpiece.
Teresa
Jan 15, 2008 Teresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read A Tale of Two Cities as a high school sophomore. I have a vivid memory of my English book laid flat on my desk, though it seems odd to me now that the whole story was in a textbook. Though it wasn’t my introduction to Dickens (that came from a book of stories I didn’t realize till later were not the ‘real’ stories, but that’s a different story), I remember being stunned by the language, the characters and the atmosphere. Especially due to the characters of Sydney Carton (what teenag ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
883. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
داستان دو شهر - چارلز دیکنز (فرزان روز) ادبیات
مترجم: گیورگیس آقاسی؛ تهران، پیروز، 1347، در 300 ص
مترجم: ابراهیم یونسی؛ تهران، جاویدان، چاپ اول 1346، در 436 ص، چاپ دوم 1355 ، در 570 ص
مترجم: ابوالفتوح امام؛ تهران، گلشایی، 1362 ، در 520 ص
مترجم: ناظر نعمتی؛ تهران، مجرد، 1363 ، در 197 ص
مترجم: کامران ایراندوست؛ تهران، درنا، 1368 ، در 180 ص
مترجم: امیر اسماعیلی؛ تهران، توسن، 1368 ، در 130 ص
مترجم: مینو مشیری؛ تهران، علمی فرهنگی، 1370 ، در 225 ص
مترجم: مجید سیف؛ تهر
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Erik
Feb 16, 2010 Erik rated it did not like it
A Tale of Two Cities holds the dubious honor of being the first book I ever picked up and failed to finish. The very first.

From there, it's all gone downhill. Just look at my reviews where I casually admit to throwing away classics unread. A Light in August, Lolita, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, etc, etc...

If you enjoy the little things, like being sane and not hating life, then I recommend you never pick this up.
Stephen
6.0 stars. This was the first Charles Dickens novel I have ever read and I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT!!! After reading this, I immediately decided that I would plan on reading the rest of Dickens books (hopefully one every couple of months until I get through them all. I was completely amazed by his characters who came instantly to life for me and about whose hopes and fears I found myself truly caring. Equally impressive was Dickens' plotting and overall story-telling ability which I thought were noth ...more
Apatt
Jun 25, 2009 Apatt rated it it was amazing
It was the best of a far, far, FAR better thing that I do, than I have ever done.

I know that’s lame, but I’m out of ideas for an opening paragraph.

This is my second reading of A Tale of Two Cities and I doubt it will be my last. A lot of people who habitually read for pleasure probably would not consider reading this book because it is required reading in many schools and it would seem like anathema to a good time to read it when you don’t have to. This is unfortunate because I think this — like
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Brad
Mar 25, 2008 Brad rated it did not like it
Shelves: most-hated, classic
A painful beast of a book. It took me five attempts to get past page one hundred, and when I finally did break that barrier I pressed on until the very end so that I didn't have to suffer ever again.

Dickens is a problem for me. I admit it freely.

There was a time, many years ago, when I was a fan. I read Great Expectations for the first time in grade four, and I was in love with the book and Dickens. And I imagine that some part of my social consciousness, which wasn't a gift from my parents, was
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Danger
Mar 28, 2011 Danger rated it liked it
About 30 pages into this book, I was struck with a moment of panic:

WHAT'S GOING ON HERE? WHERE THE HELL IS GARFIELD?!?

Had the lasagna-loving feline been uncerimoniously behead on the guillotine before the happenings of page 1? Without my favorite cartoon cat's wry, laid-back sense of wit these are surely THE WORST OF TIMES!

That is when I realized I was reading the classic text A Tale of Two CITIES, by Charles Dickens and not watching the 2006 cinematic masterpiece Garfield: A TAIL of Two KITTIES
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Annie
Nov 05, 2014 Annie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
These lines will perhaps haunt me for the rest of my life.
A Tale of Two Cities is a delicious plate of my mom’s best hotch-potch served in the biting cold of a grey December. Set in the backdrop of the French Revolution, with poverty, hunger, debauchery spreading like a dark mist over the country, and by contrast an idyllic England. It’s a story of love, of endurance and friendship, of the vagaries of the human condition, of the fickleness of
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Jan-Maat
Jun 12, 2011 Jan-Maat added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who aren't French and dislike 1789 and all that
This book is interesting for the wrong reasons. On the one hand there are elements that work very well and you feel confident in the author's skill but on the other hand the sequence of events that sucks one character after another back into France feels entirely unconvincing.

In Bleak House we see a bundle of characteristics taken to a negative extreme in the person of the French women Hortense. In A Tale of Two Cities this is extended here to the point that 'bad' and 'French' seem to be synonym
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David
This is another one of those Charles Dickens classics I was supposed to read as a kid and never did. Since I've never seen any of the movies either, it was actually pretty unspoiled for me, though I did know how it ends (anyone growing up in the English-speaking world can hardly have avoided knowing Sydney Carton's famous last lines: "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.".

Once again, I am in awe of Dicke
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Michael
Apr 26, 2010 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a book! After reading this, I've come to appreciate Charles Dickens as so much more than "that guy who wrote the Christmas Carol."

One thing I love is his ability to create a perfect storyline. Everything in this book fits together in the end like a perfect, intricate puzzle. Components that were thought to be gratuitous at first will come back in major ways at later points in the book. Maybe it's just me, but I adore authors who blatantly show that they know exactly where they're going with
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Paul
Apr 11, 2017 Paul rated it it was amazing
This was a re-read of an old favourite for me. It's been about 25 years, though, so long overdue. I'm not even going to try to review this masterpiece but let me just say one thing:

'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...'

Arguably the best opening line of any book ever written... but wait!

'It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known...'

Definitely the best closing lines of any novel ever written an
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Sidharth Vardhan
“No man ever really loved a woman, lost her, and knew her with a blameless though an unchanged mind, when she was a wife and a mother, but her children had a strange sympathy with him—an instinctive delicacy of pity for him. What fine hidden sensibilities are touched in such a case, no echoes tell; but it is so, and it was so here. Carton was the first stranger to whom little Lucie held out her chubby arms, and he kept his place with her as she grew. The little boy had spoken of him, almost at
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di
Picking up this book was a brave move. The only Dickens I'd ever managed to plod my way through was Great Expectations. My expectations weren't great and unfortunately it didn't exceed them (probably been tainted by the film version with Gwyneth Paltrow where everything is green). I tried Hard Times and didn't get very far (a poor choice for a novice I'll bet--should have known from the title). I know the general gist of many of his other books and have intended to read them, but three days ago ...more
peiman-mir5 rezakhani
دوستانِ گرانقدر، میتوان گفت که این کتاب ارزنده ترین اثرِ زنده یاد «چارلز دیکنز» است... من تا پایانِ داستان نمیدانستم که کدام یک از شخصیت هایِ داستان را به عنوانِ شخصیتِ اصلی انتخاب کنم... و حتی در این موضوع تردید داشتم که موضوع داستان را چگونه انتخاب کنم... که البته دوست دارم بگویم که موضوعِ آن از خود گذشتگی در راه عشق و یا مردانگی و مهربانیست
من کتاب را با ترجمهٔ جنابِ آقایِ «آقاسی» خواندم، اندکی اذیت کننده بود
عزیزانم، داستان از 20 فصل و 300 صفحه تشکیل شده است که گیرایی داستان سیرِ صعودی دارد، ب
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Mary
Apr 22, 2012 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2012
“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other" p.47

I feel guilty for not liking this book for the first 50-100 pages or so. I don't know what it is with me and "classics", it takes me so long to get into them and I get frustrated and impatient too quickly. For a book with one of the greatest opening paragraphs ever written ("It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...") I felt duped. It was a set up. H
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Jo Woolfardis
The first Dickens book I've read in a long time, aside from my in-depth, tear-apart-and-lose-all-enjoyment-therefore-culminating-in-another-go-in-many-years read of Hard Times for University, and I was excited to read it, purely because, having seen the ITV adaptation on telly a while ago, I could re-enact the Sydney Carton senarios using the face of the delectable Dirk Bogarde. (FYI Dirk Bogarde versus Richard Attenborough in a black-and-white bout of fisticuffs would only cause me to faint lik ...more
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Charles John Huffam Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the twentieth century critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius. His novels and sho ...more
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“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.” 2453 likes
“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” 2164 likes
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