Dickens Champsions: MK Borrowers read A Tale of Two Cities
16 June 2012 / 0 Comments
Our Dickens Champions MK Borrowers have just read A Tale of Two Cities - here's their review:
A Tale of Two Cities synopsis
The book starts in 1775:
"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..."
Jarvis Lorry of Tellson's Bank is sent to escort the traumatised Doctor Manette from Paris back to London. He is accompanied by the doctor's daughter Lucie Manette, who has never met her father. Lucie Manette herself was carried from France to London by Jarvis Lorry 15 years previously after her mother died and Doctor Manette was unjustly imprisoned in the Bastille on the order of the Marquis Evrémonde. The doctor at this time is being hidden by the Defarges in their wine shop.
On the channel ferry Lucie Manette meets Charles Darnay, the nephew of Marquis Evrémonde. However, Lucie is not aware of this as Charles has renounced his aristocratic connections and has kept them secret.
Five years on Charles Darnay is accused of treason, but is found not guilty when the testimony of a spy is put in doubt by the strong physical resemblance between Sydney Carton, a solicitor, and Charles Darnay. Sydney Carton loves Lucie, but is aware that nothing can become of it because of his drunken and irresolute behaviour. Lucie Manette is, of course, in love with Charles Darnay. Her love is returned; they marry and have a daughter.
In 1793, Charles Darnay is lured back to Paris during the terror that followed the French Revolution, where he is arrested for being an aristocrat. The case is strongly promoted by Madame Defarge for personal revenge against the entire Evrémonde family. Lucie follows Charles to Paris with her daughter, father and Miss Pross (companion/nurse of Lucie). In Paris they meet Jarvis Lorry and Sydney Carton. Over a year goes by; during which Charles remain in prison. Eventually all legal means fail and Charles is sentence to be guillotined. Sydney Carton manages to substitute himself for Charles:
"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."
We focussed on the brilliant plot and the host of wonderfully believable characters; Madame Defarge is certainly a force to be reckoned with! The language of the book is visually evocative, it's as though the story is told through a series of images rather than words. The narration is quite complex and non-linear; the final pieces of the jigsaw are not revealed until the end. Several strong images recur during the book: the terror, the guillotine, the knitting...
We felt that Dickens showed sympathy with the causes of the French Revolution, but also, perhaps, a warning of the terror that follows such violent upheavals. A view as relevant today as it was when the book was written.
Watch out for our Dickens Champions' blog posts as they read and review their way through Dickens during 2012.
Reading Dickens in your reading group or book club? Get in touch or post a comment to let us know how you're getting on.
Photo credit: Avital Pinnick used under creative commons license.