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A Tale of Two Cities

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3.83  ·  Rating details ·  762,149 ratings  ·  15,951 reviews
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 brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil ...more
Paperback, Penguin Classics (UK/CAN/USA), 489 pages
Published 2003 by Penguin Books (first published November 26th 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)

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Melissa Rudder
Jan 23, 2008 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 ...more
Lyn
Dec 01, 2011 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
...more
Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
”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.”

It rarely happens that a quote from a book haunts me but this one, well, this one does. I finished “A Tale of Two Cities” about two weeks ago, yet I’m still not over the ending. But how could I? After all, this is one of those rare books that keep you thinking even after you finished the last page and already closed the cover of the book.

The most intriguing thing
...more
Sean Barrs the Bookdragon
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
...more
Leslie
Feb 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Matthew
“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 epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

Another classic down! The copy of this book that I read I have owned since middle
...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
883. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
A Tale of Two Cities (1859) is a historical novel by Charles Dickens, set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. The novel tells the story of the French Doctor Manette, his 18-year-long imprisonment in the Bastille in Paris and his release to life in London with his daughter Lucie, whom he had never met; Lucie's marriage and the collision between her beloved husband and the people who caused her father's imprisonment; and Monsieur
...more
Bionic Jean
“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
...more
Nick
Oct 13, 2018 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
This is Tessa's favorite. The book that Will grew to love. It must have something special.
Candi
Apr 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
"A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it!"

It has been quite some time since I’
...more
Laura
Jun 12, 2008 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 ...more
Kalliope



A KNIT 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
...more
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 behalf, honestly surprised they didn't start rioting sooner.
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
A Tale of Two Cities was the first Charles Dickens novel I read on my own, not because an English class required it (looking at you, Great Expectations). I was going on a cross-country trip and decided this would be a good book to while away the hours.

From the first immortal words:
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 epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity ...
to the very last ones, it was an absorbing story
...more
Jason Koivu
Nov 22, 2008 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 ...more
Adina
Mar 20, 2018 marked it as abandoned
Shelves: classics, 1001, british
DNF at page 150

Well, I can't believe I am abandoning a Charles Dickens novel but I do not want to go on. It is so different from the other two works that I've read by him and loved. I don't know, I don't like the tone of the story(it might be the translation), cannot connect with the characters and I just don't like it. I thought that something is wrong with me but my mum saw the book on my shelf Today and she confessed that it was the only Dickens she could not read...and my mum finished
...more
Michelle
Feb 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I first read this in high school as a substitute for "Oliver Twist" which was not in my high school library 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 has no social life. Anyway...

"A Tale of Two Cities" is, once again, one of those books I have read when I was too
...more
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
...more
Pink
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't know Dickens. Is it you? Or is it me?

I keep reminding myself that this isn't typical fare of his. Much shorter, written weekly, full of plot, tight on character development, short on the waffle. Does this make it one of his best, or one of his worst?

I have to admit, that for the majority of my time listening to this on audiobook, I kept forgetting what novel it was. I've recently read The Count of Monte Cristo, so in my head Manette was morphing into the Count, but a lesser version.
...more
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 ...more
Apatt
Jun 25, 2009 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
...more
Paul E. Morph
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
...more
Lisa
"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 epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair."

It leaves me wondering: are there ever any other times? Isn't each era full of everything that is best and worst, full of hope and despair, of improvement and destruction?

What makes me feel hope?

Reading Dickens!
...more
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.
Erik
Feb 16, 2010 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.
Debra
Feb 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
"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."

I still remember being assigned to read this book in the 11th grade by Mr. Stahler. I can still see him up there in front of the room, leaning on the lectern, talking about Dickens and this particular book. Thinking back on this time, I can say this is the first Classic book that I loved. I loved the romance, heroism, the courage, the sacrifice. As a teenage girl
...more
Tracey
My review from December 2013 says;

I have just finished A Tale of Two Cities and I am in awe of the story and the man that wrote it.
This is doubly true today having finished my first re read after 6 years have passed.

This time I could see all the brilliant foreshadowing in every chapter.
I knew where we were going this time and as well as the gripping story, which is horrifying and descriptive of terrors you'd not want in your worst nightmares but were based on factual events such as, The storming
...more
Brad
Mar 25, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: classic, most-hated
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
...more
Teresa
Jan 15, 2008 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 ...more
Jan-Maat
Jun 12, 2011 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
...more
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Charles John Huffam Dickens was a writer and social critic who 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 short stories enjoy lasting popularity.

...more
“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.” 2743 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.” 2503 likes
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