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)

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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!

Persuasion by Jane Austen

persuasion
Title
Persuasion
Author:  Jane Austen
Length:  236 pages
Genre:  Classic Literature
Content Notes:  I found it to be a bit wordy and tedious in some places.


Anne was in love with Captain Wentworth; but she allowed others to persuade her not to attach herself to him. In this classic novel, Anne has to find that balance between being open to persuasion and standing firm on her own convictions. This is a story of love, regrets, second chances, and determining when to be persuaded and when not to be. In true Austen style, it is a story of love lost and found. It doesn’t take the place of my favorite Austen novel (Pride and Prejudice); but amidst the wordiness and rambling sections, this novel grew on me.


Quotes from the Book

…there could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison; no countenances so beloved.” (Ch. 8)

A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman. He ought not; he does not.” (Ch. 20)

You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever.” (Ch. 23)

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

david-copperfield

Title David Copperfield
Author:  Charles Dickens
Length:  791 pages
Genre:  Classic Literature
Content Notes:  This is a long book; but the length shows the author’s ability to really develop the characters.


In this classic novel, Dickens tells the life story of David Copperfield. He does a superb job of developing the characters and leaving no loose ends when you finish the last chapter. The novel deals with a fair bit of heavy issues:  hardship and cruelty, poverty, death, loss, scandal, and misplaced love. However, it’s also filled with themes of enduring friendship, unconditional love, forgiveness, kindness, and strength of character to overcome. This is obviously not a light read; yet, Dickens manages to make it feel less heavy at times by sprinkling in humor here and there. Don’t let the length cause you to look over this book. While there may be some wordiness at times, it’s truly a well-written classic.


Quotes from the Book

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.

My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; that in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest.