Sunday 8 December 2013

A Tale of Two Cities: The First Bit

Right, so some of you guys will know that I am no longer the greatest at writing reviews, and so the greatest thing about a readalong is that at no point do I have to write a review as such. These are just thoughts and questions. I did a little background reading for this post (by which I mean I looked up 'A Tale of Two Cities' on Wikipedia. Obviously) and discovered the following:

  • A Tale of Two Cities is Dickens' thirteenth novel (if you count all the Christmas stories as one thing, which they aren't really but I am for the purpose of this) published in 1859, but set before and during the French Revolution. This kind of messed with my mind, because it's Dickens writing what pretty much amounts to historical fiction. That was weird for me, because of him having been dead for ages and all. Does that make any sense?
  • It was first published, like pretty much all of Dickens' work, as a weekly serial between 30th April 1859 and 26th November 1859. 
  • It may have been influenced by Dickens just having begun his affair with eighteen year old actress Ellen Ternan. Apparently Lucie Manette looks like her...
So there's that... Judging from Twitter this week (and if you want to follow/join in with the debate use #dickensindecember) I am the only one who enjoyed Book 1 of this novel. I think it was starting off reading that famous opening, which has to be one of the most famous in literature surely? I think for me it just moved a lot quicker than the other Dickens novels I've read, and although there was a lot of description, I really enjoyed it. The second chapter of book one which is all about people travelling to Dover in a coach by night I found really atmospheric and quite gripping and  by the time we reached the end of book one I was quiet excited about the story. I liked how much had happened in the first six chapters. It was unexpected, to say the least. 

Having said that, the only character I really liked in book one was Madame Defarge. My knowledge of A Tale of Two Cities is pretty much limited to a general idea that it's about the French Revolution and also some character names are familiar, but for some reason I kind of feel like she might be the bad guy/the one who gets everyone killed? But anyway, I love how she just sits there and knits and says nothing and yet is clearly in charge of everything. It's awesome. The rest of them were a little bit meh to be honest. I liked the storyline and the description more than I did the characters, and that hasn't changed all that much in Book Two except that now there are some characters that I can't make up my mind about - mostly Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay, which is funny as they are clearly meant to be opposite sides of the same thing. I think we're probably meant to like Darnay and dislike Carton but I'm just not sure yet. I've avoided reading the character descriptions and synopsis on Wikipedia because it will ruin the fun of reading this back in two weeks and going 'oh my God how could I have got it so wrong?!'. 

I think my major problem is that I really dislike characters who are trying too hard to be good, and I kind of feel like Charles Darnay might be doing that a little, and Lucie Manette is definitely trying too hard and she is probably going to drive me totally mad in a few more chapters but we'll get to that I'm sure. Actually I feel like most of the characters are trying too hard. I'm hoping they're going to change my mind in the next bit! 

I have to apologise for choosing possibly the worst point ever to make you all stop reading for the week! Hopefully nobody finished on Tuesday or anything and has had to wait since then, if you have then I'm sorry, but I've got to say I'm kind of glad the Marquis is dead, because that guy was clearly a knob. 

And thus end my thoughts for this week :-) Eloquent, aren't I?

Link up your posts here, or put your thoughts in the comments! Thoughts are welcomed from those who have not read along with us but who have thoughts to share!


  1. The fact that you enjoyed Book 1 blows my mind. I just couldn't follow it and it took me forever to get through it. I was genuinely contemplating admitting defeat at one point and if I hadn't posted about starting it, I might have done. I *may* have rested my eyes on some trains because of that part of the book. Basically, I wanted to know what was so desperately exciting about the Mail (and why it needed capitalising) and why we had to care about it and I never found out and it wasn't fun.

    Book 2 was so, SO much better and I loved that you gave us a cliffhanger to end the week on. I'm going to give you credit for that even if you did it accidentally! :) I'm looking forward to reading more though so that's something. And I do feel a little bit absurdly proud about reading Dickens. The other day at work someone who keeps forgetting that I like reading asked in a kind of smug way, "Well what are you reading now then?" and I got to be like "A Tale of Two Cities. In. Your. Face!" But more politely because, you know, I was at work.

    (And no, I don't know why my name on the link thing is referring to a book that is in no way relevant right now. I suspect because my browser was "helping" and importing past details that I obviously must want to re-use. Thanks, Chrome)

    1. I think I just like reading about journeys? Also I have this weird love of travelling at night left over from childhood, plus I live quite near Dover so I think there were lots of added interest factors for me that you and Hanna definitely didn't have!

      Book 2 was much better though, and thanks for the credit, it was totally unintentional! I know what you mean with being smug at people - a friend at work and I discuss what we're reading sometimes and last time he asked I was reading Jodi Picoult who he doesn't think much of, and this time I was like 'Dickens! Ha!', except also more politely because work :-p Plus I'm SO excited that once I finish this I will not only be able to cross something else off of my Classics Club list but also (it looks like so far anyway) have enjoyed it! Ah enjoying Dickens, who knew this day would come when reading something that isn't A Christmas Carol?

  2. I really didn't mind Book I. And though Book II was definitely more action packed, Book I set up the story nicely.
    I was a little wary about Dickens in the beginning of the readalong, but A Tale of Two Cities is totally exceeding all my expectations... I'm so excited to read more! (So excited, in fact, that I ended up reading five chapters ahead without realizing it... whoops! :-P )

    1. Oh yay I'm so glad it's not just me who liked Book 1! I also thought it was a good set up for what comes after.

      I agree, totally exceeding all expectations so far. I'd say it's much better than the others I've read but that's not totally true as they all ended up good they just took a really long time getting there, this is going much quicker so far!

  3. I didn't mind book 1. I wouldn't say that I was on the edge of my seat reading it or anything, but it didn't discourage me from reading in any way. I got a bit lost at times, but reading your post actually made me realise how many things I had completely failed to pick up on, so thank you! It turns out that reading really late at night when you're stupidly tired isn't great for reading comprehension! Who knew?! I'm not sure I'll fare any better this week as I have a cold. It might be time to start taking notes.

    I liked the ending point, it left me really wanting to carry on reading, but if it had been a few chapters earlier I don't think I would have been as bothered.

    And the historical fiction thing also messed with my mind a bit. It's kind of obvious that it would exist, but it's just odd to have someone living at a time that would feature in historical fiction today be writing historical fiction.

  4. Okay now I want to read this too but I CAN'T BECAUSE ALL THE LIBRARY BOOKS BEX.

    "I'm kind of glad the Marquis is dead, because that guy was clearly a knob." I AM SO PROUD. That's a dose of earthy northern spirit right there - must have been that foray to Leeds. :P

  5. AH CRAP. I completely forgot about the check in last weekend. I mean, to be fair... WE GOT A PUPPY, so you know...

    *rushes off to babble about Dickens*

    Did I mention THE PUPPY!?