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Tale of Two Cities (Version 5)

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By: (1812-1870)

Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities is a novel that views the eighteenth century French Revolution through the lens of nineteenth century Victorian Romanticism. Dickens tells the story of a wide range of characters in London and Paris whose lives intersect in the turbulence of the revolution. Unusual among his novels, A Tale of Two Cities relies heavily on plot rather than characterization. The moralism so typical of Dickens is much in evidence, however, as the author stages his story in the most violent period of the revolution, the Reign of Terror . It is very much a tale of good versus evil, with Dickens essentially realizing in fiction the historian Thomas Carlyle’s now-discredited interpretation of the French Revolution as a struggle between oppressed poor and monstrous aristocrats. Dickens situates the tensions of the period in the characters of the story: Charles Darnay, scion of the aristocracy but determined to atone for his family’s sins; Sydney Carton, a dissolute English barrister drawn to a plan of redemptive self-sacrifice to give his life to save Darnay, the husband of the woman Carton loves; Lucy Manette, the pure personification of saintly womanhood and the woman both men love; and a duo of comedic characters of a kind more familiar to Dickens’s readers, the shrill Miss Pross and the hapless “resurrectionist,” Jerry Cruncher.

The novel threads a continuous dualism through the story, a dualism both in plot and characterization. Opposite Lucy’s sacredness as a human symbol of love, Dickens gives us Madame Defarge, a human dynamo hell-bent on murderous revenge against Darnay’s family and all its descendants. The Revolution is portrayed as an understandable reaction to the aristocrats’ cruelty toward the poor, but the latter’s response--the guillotine and the trumbrils that supply its steady “wine”--simply represent the poor repeating the same mistakes as their oppressors. The “two cities.” too, are opposites. Dickens’s London is a place where change is often impossibly stymied by stuffiness, but on which the world can rely for the preservation of law and freedom. Paris is a city of hate and lawless vengeance, high in risk but also pregnant with the possibility of regeneration. It is in Paris that Darnay and Carton, so like each other in appearance, so different in their life paths, experience completely different fates, but fates that allow them equally to realize their common dream for a life well lived.

Dickens, who liked to act in this later stage of his career, very much portrays his scenes as set-pieces heavy on dialogue, almost like a play. This poses a challenge to the reader. The novel’s romanticism and symbolism virtually invites exaggeration in the reading of the dialogue, and provides forgiveness for any failures to render these readings “realistic.” Yet there is a complete seriousness to the messages Dickens is trying to convey that must not be undermined by excessive mannerism. For generations to come, audiences will surely continue to love this novel and its reflection on life, and on what makes life worth living.

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Reviews (Rated: 5 Stars - 24 reviews)

Reviewer: - April 28, 2021
Subject: question
I can find ebook of this book.
Reviewer: - November 17, 2020
Subject: Review
Great book. Exceptional narration by Paul Adams. I will definitely search for other books read by him.
Reviewer: - October 27, 2019
Subject: Review
A powerful book read by an expert reader. What a pleasure!
Reviewer: - February 13, 2019
Subject: 5 stars
The narration is really good. Story is amazing too. Highly recommend listening to this book.
Reviewer: - May 26, 2018
Subject: Review
Paul Adams is an excellent reader
Reviewer: - October 21, 2017
Subject: Tale of Two Cities
Very timely again in this turbulent political climate.. Paul Adams is superb!!!
Reviewer: - February 11, 2017
Brilliant, so enjoyed the story and Paul Adams was fantastic!
Reviewer: - November 29, 2016
Subject: Review
Brilliant. Loved this book and the narrator Paul Adams. Hope I come across a narrative of his again. Great story. First time I've truly appreciated Charles Dickens talent for writing stories. Brilliant
Reviewer: - September 29, 2015
this was cool
Reviewer: - May 1, 2015
Subject: Review
This is a wonderful book and the Paul Adams, the reader, is magnificent! You can tell that Paul loves this story too. He puts so much emotion into it. Great to listen to!
Reviewer: - January 12, 2015
Subject: Review
Wow this is hard. The narrator did a good job overall. His interpretation of this story was interesting. By the end of the book he was wonderful . This story is not like any of the other books Charles D has written. It must have been very trying to have lived in a world such as his. We are so very lucky today. Thank you.
Reviewer: - October 31, 2014
Subject: Wonderful
The only thing better than a wonderful story is a wonderful story read by a fabulous reader.
Reviewer: - June 2, 2014
Subject: thank you
Thank you so much! I really appreciate your readings.
Reviewer: - May 10, 2014
Subject: A Tale of Two Cities
Love the way he puts emphasis on certain words that can be very easy to read over. It makes homework reading somewhat fun and interesting.
Reviewer: - April 11, 2014
Great book and great reader! I really enjoyed it all.
Reviewer: - January 9, 2014
Subject: Amazing voice
The way he puts more emotion into the reading makes me feel excited and suspicious. Amazing!
Reviewer: - November 7, 2013
I'm quickly becoming a Charles Dickens fan. This book is no exception although it took a while to get into it and like most Dickens books, there is such an array of characters that are introduced, I found myself Googling the character list to figure out who was who. I would have given it 5 stars if it wasn't for the fact that it took me half the book before I "really" started enjoying it. If I divided the book in two, the first half would be 4 stars and the second half would be 5.
Reviewer: - October 28, 2013
Subject: A Tale of Two Cities.
Loved Paul Adam's narration, no yawning going on here! Thank you.
Reviewer: - September 11, 2013
Subject: A tale of two cities
This was my first audio book. The combination of the writing (it made me laugh out loud and almost brought me to tears) plus Paul Adams' reading made it a fabulous experience. Thoroughly recommended.
Reviewer: - August 11, 2013
I had to stop listening about 1/4 through this book - I just couldn't listen to the reader any longer. Every word spoken is sooo dramatic - way too dramatic...
Reviewer: - March 5, 2013
Great book. The book has a great plot.
Reviewer: - February 15, 2013
Very good.
Reviewer: - January 6, 2013
Subject: Very well done
I've listened to this book over and over again. It is of course a great story. I listen so many times primarily because Paul Adams does the best reading of a book that I have ever heard. He is able to create a one man verbal dramatic performance. He injects nuance into every word and intention into every sentence. Not one stumble, hesitation or mispronunciation. I can only hope Paul Adams lends his talents to a new classic book project very soon. I would gladly listen as he reads the phone book.
Reviewer: - December 11, 2012
Great book so far

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