After reading George Orwell’s Animal Farm, I decided to move away from 20th-century literature for a while. I loved Pride and Prejudice (currently my favourite classic) and so I headed back into the 19th century. To my shame, before now I had not read a single Dickens novel. I stumbled across ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ and began to read. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens 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—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. And so opens A Tale of Two Cities. Written in 1859, Dickens’ classic novel is set in the cities of both London and Paris prior to and during the French Revolution of the late 18th century. The Revolution saw the uprising of the lower classes as they overthrew the nobility. Read my post on Marie Antoinette for more information. The story begins in 1775 with one of the leading characters, Jarvis Lorry, a bank manager from Tellson’s bank, travelling from London to Dover. A rider approaches the carriage. Mr Lorry recognises the man as Jerry Cruncher, an ‘odd job man’ employed by Tellsons. Mr Cruncher delivers a message to Mr Lorry and the latter’s cryptic response is: “Recalled to Life.” As Mr Lorry’s journey progresses, the reader is left to ponder the meaning of this mysterious message. All questions are answered as the principle characters enter the story. Namely, Doctor Manette, a physician and his daughter Lucie. The narrative then takes us through the events of the lives of Doctor Manette and his daughter and the profound effect French Revolution has on both of their lives. Themes The notion of Resurrection runs strongly throughout the novel. “I am the resurrection and the life” Resurrection in the literal sense but also resurrection as an opportunity for change and new beginnings. Love, loyalty and friendship are themes which Dickens explores. Sometimes these sentiments can be pushed to their limits and yet are in many ways are the basic framework of human relationships. Violence inflicted by one class upon another is a recurring theme in A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens writes in such a way that the emotions of the characters during these episodes seemingly emerge from the pages. A Recommended Read! To be honest, when I first began reading A Tale of Two Cities, I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it. However, two chapters in and I was hooked! The novel is beautifully written in Victorian elegance and with the morality of that era. Consider this: Dickens would have known people who were alive during the French Revolution, an event so far removed from our time. It is fascinating to have a man from the past look back on the recent past of his own times. And Dickens did his homework too. He used as a source The French Revolution: A History, by Thomas Carlyle amongst other credible publications. The novel is full of surprises. As the plot thickens the reader is left on the edge of their seat and eager to read more. From the beginning, you would have no clue as to the outcome of this beautiful tale.