A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities

Title:  A Tale of Two Cities
Author:  Charles Dickens
Length:  293 pages
Genre:  Classic Literature; Classic Gothic Literature


About This Book

A Tale of Two Cities is one of two historical novels that Charles Dickens wrote. The novel is set in the time of the French Revolution. France was in turmoil and there was danger all around. With this as a backdrop, Dickens crafts a story immersed in themes such as injustice, vengeance, love, sacrifice and redemption. The story centers around Dr. Manette, his daughter Lucie, and Charles Darnay; and in classic Dickens style, there’s a host of other characters that are weaved in and out of the story. This classic gothic novel is full of drama, adventure, plots, and romance.


My Thoughts

As I read A Tale of Two Cities, I found myself asking the same question I asked when I read David Copperfield earlier this year: Do I like Dickens’ style of writing or not? Both novels are undoubtedly good. But I have inevitably found myself at different points of each novel getting bogged down in sections that I feel are a bit wordy. Dickens wrote this novel in serial form, which means it was published in small sections at a time. It was published in weekly installments; whereas David Copperfield was published in monthly installments. If Dickens was paid by the word, that would probably explain some of the wordiness.

Despite the wordiness, though, I’ve concluded that I do think I like Dickens’ style overall. One of the things I think Dickens does so well is craft a really good story. He can take a host of seemingly unconnected characters and weave them in and out of the novel until they finally all begin to connect in some way. In addition, as I mentioned in my post about David Copperfield, Dickens truly does a superb job of developing characters.

I am understanding that I have to come to Dickens’ novels knowing a couple of things from the start. One, there will probably be some points of wordiness that I’ll need to just wade through. Two, it’s probably going to take at least a good third of the novel to get my bearings with the story, which includes being able to know and place characters. Dickens tends to introduce a lot of characters in the beginning and it can sometimes be confusing to keep all those characters straight. But if I keep reading, eventually all those characters become recognized and the confusion begins to fade.


Quotes from the Book

“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…” (pg. 1)

“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.” (pg. 293)

The Trial by Franz Kafka

The Trial
Title:  The Trial
Author:  Franz Kafka
Length:  304 pages
Genre:  Classic Literature


About This Book

“Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested.” (The Trial by Franz Kafka)

The very first line of this novel sets the stage for the story that unfolds. It is the story of a man named Josef K. who has been arrested but he does not know why. He then sets out to defend himself and prove his innocence.


My Thoughts

I don’t really know quite what to write about this book. It’s kind of odd. Probably a little bit of background could be helpful.

“During his uneventful lifetime Kafka published a few short stories and novellas, most notably Metamorphosis. At his death he left behind three nearly finished novels, including Amerika, with strict instructions to his friend Max Brod to burn them. After much deliberation, Brod instead edited and published them.” 

~ From Invitation to the Classics Edited by Louise Cowan and Os Guinness, pg. 311

The Trial was one of these unfinished novels; therefore, I think one has to read it with that in mind. Having said that, I didn’t like or not like the book. To me, it was just so-so.

I feel like the novel is hard describe. Typical books progress from the beginning to the end. However, The Trial does not really do this. You have the definite beginning; and the first few pages did grab my attention. Unfortunately, the story really doesn’t progress to any resolution. There are things that just don’t make sense. In addition, there really isn’t much, if any, character development. The reader is left wandering through the pages, only to find that the main character doesn’t really evolve in any way.

So in the end, if I were to rate this book, I think I could only give it 3 stars.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein
Title Frankenstein
Author:  Mary Shelley
Length:  166 pages
Genre:  Classic Literature; Classic Gothic Literature


About the Book

When you hear the name “Frankenstein”, visions of a tall, green, ugly monster tend to come to mind. Maybe you picture the classic monster portrayed in the 1930’s movie starring Boris Karloft. However, the book is not just about a monster; and the monster’s name isn’t Frankenstein. The main character of this book is a young man called Victor Frankenstein who decides to pursue science and ends up becoming obsessed with creating life. He finds that he’s able to piece together this being and bring it to life, something that he’s spent hours upon hours trying to figure out. When he brings the creation to life, he is abhorred at it and runs from it…leaving the creation left on its own. What transpires is a story filled with chilling events, tough themes, and questions that aren’t easily answered. Themes such as secrecy, abandonment, and hopelessness pervade this novel.


My Thoughts

I can’t say that I *loved* this book because it’s not a feel-good read. It’s filled with hard questions, tough themes, and moments when terrible things happen and you have to read about it. However, it is a *good* book; a worthy one to be read. I am glad I read it and I definitely recommend it. While some aspects of the story seem fantastical (as in not realistic), I find that it doesn’t take away from making the reader think and ask questions.

As I thought about how people treated Victor Frankenstein’s creation in the beginning, I couldn’t help thinking about one of my favorite Disney movies Beauty and the Beast. In the movie, the Beast is seen as just that…a hideous, grotesque beast that is dangerous. When Gastan and the townspeople see him, they want to go after him. In the same way, when people saw the creation Frankenstein made, all they saw was this hideous, grotesque monster and were terrified. Some even harmed him. Where the stories differ and make for a good comparison, is this: In Beauty and the Beast, Belle actually got to know the beast and began to see him for who he was inside, not the hideous beast that he looked like on the outside. And things changed for the better because of Belle and her kindness and love. However, this did not happen for the creation Frankenstein made. He was abandoned, rejected, and mistreated. He longed for community, relationship with others, and for love. But he received none of that. And he ended up spiraling downward and did terrible things. When reading Frankenstein, the reader is left thinking about the potential effects of love and kindness vs. abandonment, rejection, and hopelessness.

If you’re looking for a good book club pick, definitely give this one consideration. This novel is so full of things to discuss that you are going to want to read it with others!

Classic Gothic Books for October

It’s officially the fall season now and that means I’m thinking about sweatshirts and sweatpants, crisp cool weather, Hallmark movies, and of course books. 🙂 Fall is my favorite season and as I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to be sure to read in the last few months of the year, what books would be good reads for October have been on my mind. In my opinion, October lends itself well to gothic classics. So today, I’m sharing 5 classic gothic novels to curl up on the couch with this month, of course with a warm mug of coffee or a steaming cup of tea. 😉


Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

This is the one book on this list I have already read. It’s the story of a scientist named Dr. Jekyll who tries an experiment to split his personality. What follows is a suspenseful thriller, making it perfect for an October read. It’s a short book that I found hard to put down.


A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

I started reading this several months ago with my husband; but we both kind of slacked up on it and haven’t finished it yet. So I picked it back up with the goal to finish it by December.
A Tale of Two Cities starts out with the statement that is so well-known:

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

From the back cover of the Dover Thrift Edition:

It was the time of the French Revolution — a time of great change and great danger. It was a time when injustice was met by a lust for vengeance, and rarely was a distinction made between the innocent and the guilty. Against this tumultuous historical backdrop, Dickens’ great story of unsurpassed adventure and courage unfolds.

Unjustly imprisoned for 18 years in the Bastille, Dr. Alexander Manette is reunited with his daughter Lucie and safely transported from France to England. It would seem that they could now take up the threads of their lives in peace. As fate would have it though, the pair are summoned to the Old Bailey to testify against a young Frenchman — Charles Darnay — falsely accused of treason. Strangely enough, Darnay bears an uncanny resemblance to another man in the courtroom, the dissolute lawyer’s clerk Sydney Carton. It is a coincidence that saves Darnay from certain doom more than once. Brilliantly plotted, the novel is rich in drama, romance, and heroics that culminate in a daring prison escape in the shadow of the guillotine.”


Frankenstein

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

This is my other pick for my Fallish reads this month. From the back cover of the Dover Thrift Edition:

“Few creatures of horror have seized readers’ imaginations and held them for so long as the anguished monster of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The story of Victor Frankenstein’s terrible creation and the havoc it caused has enthralled generations of readers and inspired countless writers of horror and suspense.”


Dracula

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Written in the epistolary style, this classic horror novel introduced the world to Count Dracula. My husband read this recently and said that he was surprised by it. He described it as frighteningly good. From the back cover of the Dover Thrift Edition:

“During a business visit to Count Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, a young English solicitor finds himself at the center of a series of horrifying incidents. Jonathan Harker is attacked by three phantom women, observes the Count’s transformation from human to bat form, and discovers puncture wounds on his own neck that seem to have been made by teeth. Harker returns home upon his escape from Dracula’s grim fortress, but a friend’s strange malady — involving sleepwalking, inexplicable blood loss, and mysterious throat wounds — initiates a frantic vampire hunt. The popularity of Bram Stoker’s 1897 horror romance is as deathless as any vampire.  Its supernatural appeal has spawned a host of film and stage adaptations, and more than a century after its initial publication, it continues to hold readers spellbound.”


Rebecca

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

This has been on my to-read list for awhile. I have, however, seen the classic Alfred Hitchcock movie starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. A suspenseful thriller, I’ve heard the book is hard to put down.

From the Goodreads description:

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .

The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady’s maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives–presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.”


What classic books do you think make good October reads?