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A Tale of Two Cities

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  579,765 ratings  ·  10,825 reviews
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." With these famous words, Charles Dickens plunges the reader into one of history's most explosive eras – the French Revolution. From the storming of the Bastille to the relentless drop of the guillotine, Dickens vividly captures the terror and upheaval of that tumultuous period. At the center is the novel's hero, Sydn ...more
Hardcover, Clothbound, 489 pages
Published June 2nd 2011 by Penguin Classics (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:
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)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane AustenJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeWuthering Heights by Emily BrontëSense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Penguin Clothbound Classics
24th out of 76 books — 195 voters
Pride and Prejudice by Jane AustenThe Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott FitzgeraldWuthering Heights by Emily BrontëGreat Expectations by Charles DickensThe Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Coralie Bickford-Smith Designs
32nd out of 77 books — 29 voters

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Community Reviews

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Melissa Rudder
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
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 and
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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


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
Jason Koivu
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
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
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
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.
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
Feb 06, 2015 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
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
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
About 30 pages into this book, I was struck with a moment of panic:


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
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
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
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

After having a great experience last year reading “Bleak House”, I managed to built up great expectations for my next Dickens project. After all, “A Tale of Two Cities” is probably the most famous story by the prolific author. And I am really keen to learn more, to put some order in my sketchy picture of the French Revolution. Sadly, the expectations were only partially fulfilled. I didn’t really enjoy the journey, and a final four star rating reflects more on the historical context and the soci
My latest reading of A Tale of Two Cities, some 50 years after the first (!) confirms my initial rating. This was admittedly like a completely new reading experience, apart from the first and last paragraphs known and remembered by so many English-speaking readers across this world. Dickens' strengths as a writer are confirmed in his descriptive prose but I so much missed the depth of characters and presence of humor recently experienced in Great Expectations.

I plan to continue reading through
Jennifer (aka EM)
Above all else, this is a love story. It is a story of family and friendship and loyalty. It is Dickens at his most florid and most rhetorical, his most humane, his most [melo]dramatic; yet in many ways, his most precise. I vacillate between this and Bleak House as my favourites of his. I would tell you, if you've not read Dickens, to start here. This is as seminal a work in English literature as King Lear or perhaps a more apt comparison, Romeo and Juliet.

For this is a love story.

The last three
Dec 09, 2012 Sparrow rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Rick Perry
Recommended to Sparrow by: Mr. Zottola
Who are your gods? Whom do you worship in actions, and whom in words? Charles Dickens waggles his finger in my face, the finger of a crone, of a maiden, of a businessman. The polished finger of a marquis, the calloused finger of a knitter. He makes his point with the appropriate number of adjectives and with enough humor to break through the polished shell of morality and reach something true. When you dress your Good up in robes and worship it, maybe what you truly worship is Death. And Dickens ...more
“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.”


The ending is what makes the book! For anyone who has started this novel, don't give up on it because of the slower parts.

The story is broken up into 3 books. The first book was short. The second (and longest) book started to get tedious, but then it began to pick up in the 2nd half of that book. The final book was just fantastic. It takes some time to get into b
"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."

Why have I always assumed that quote was from Shakespeare? I've always loved Dickens but this book moved me to tears. Definitely one of his best works of all time, and my conclusion is this:
I am thoroughly in love with Carton. To be able to have that peace and finally put my sin to rest, how blissful that would be! To find an act that might possibly make me feel th

Charles Dickens is not my favourite novelist by a wide margin. At high school, I found Great Expectations and Oliver Twist underwhelming. Although I loved Bleak House when I read it at university, my positive reaction to that novel did not inspire me to read any more Dickens. And I haven’t done so until now. Tackled as a buddy read with members of the Mt TBR Challenge Group, I listened to this novel as an audiobook very capably narrated by Anton Lesser.

For quite a long time, I thought that this
May 22, 2009 Kelly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Brit lit dorks, history geeks
Say what you want about this book. Overdone, overblown, overly dramatic. Yes. He drops anvils like Wylde E. Coyote. He's about as subtle as my dog when he needs to pee. Yes. But I love this book anyway. I just adore it, and you can't talk me out of it! It is my favorite Dickens novel.

All of the aforementioned may be completely true, but I think that with the subject and time period that Dickens is dealing with, he can get away with it. Was there anything subtle or restrained about the Terror? I'
MJ Nicholls
Chris Sarandon saved me. His excellent performance as Sydney and Charles in this respectable 1980s TV adaptation helped me over the hump of a confused first attempt to engage with this splendid tale. Despite forever entwining Sydney to Nick Cave in my imagination (a bad thing?) Chris played the two heroes with plank-like charisma and bouffant hair. The novel itself is a quiet epic—for all the tumult, uprising and bloodshed, this a story of personal sacrifice and silent, sorrowful heartbreak. An ...more
“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
Dec 04, 2013 Mark rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone but Robespierre or Mme Defarge
Recommended to Mark by: Mr Flint, my English teacher
Shelves: favorites
This book became my favourite novel when I read it in my third year at school in 1978. I have no idea why it grabbed me so dramatically as I know I have read better books since but Chas still occupies the top spot. I think the character of Carton is such a beautifully drawn study of a wastrel being made magnificent through the love he bears for the unattainable and his act of sacrifice is stupendous. Those last few pages of this gigantic tome find me normally sniffing and wiping tears away and t ...more
More like 3.5 Stars.

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

Raise your hand if you read this book just because of TID.

Note to self : When an author says they based their novel on a classic … don’t trust them.
These are all the similarities I could find :

If you are planing to read this book because of TID keep in mind that it is very, VERY loosely based on it that’s all.

Let’s talk about the characters : (spoilers ahead !!!)

Sydney Carton :
I felt sorry for him. The poor guy got fr
Charles Dickens and I have a complicated relationship. I was forced to read Great Expectations at school, and vividly recall struggling through the passages about that old woman and her old wedding dress. About a decade later, when my anglophilia took me to London, I picked up the Pickwick Papers to read on the bus and laughed so hard that fellow passengers turned around to glare at me. Most recently, I suffered through half of David Copperfield before I convinced myself that I really couldn't c ...more
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A prolific 19th Century author of short stories, plays, novellas, novels, fiction and non-fiction; during his lifetime Dickens became known the world over for his remarkable characters, his mastery of prose in the telling of their lives, and his depictions of the social classes, morals and values of his times. Some considered him the spokesman for the poor, for he definitely brought much awarenes ...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.” 2166 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.” 1792 likes
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