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A Tale of Two Cities
Author - Charles Dickens

Excerpt: “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 spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us… It was the year of Our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five.”

A Tale of Two Cities begins with these famous words. The events in the story happen just before and during the French Revolution. The novel describes how the times shape the lives of the main characters –Dr. Manette, his daughter Lucie, Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton. The action moves between tranquil London and chaotic Paris.

Dr. Manette has suffered many years of imprisonment in France due to the ruthlessness of the Evremondes. His daughter Lucie finds him and nurses him back to health in London. Charles Darnay, an Evremonde himself, disowns his aristocratic heritage and lives in London under a false name. But Darnay is accused of being a French spy, and is saved by the shrewd, melancholy lawyer, Sydney Carton. Both Darnay and Carton love Lucie but she marries Darnay.

At the height of the Revolution, Darnay is forced to go to Paris to save a loyal servant. He is arrested as an aristocrat- traitor. Dr. Manette and Lucie come to Paris too, to plead with the Revolutionists to release Darnay. But Madame Defarge, a ruthless, unforgiving leader of the Revolution, has him condemned to death. Darnay faces the Guillotine, and the good Doctor and Lucie could be condemned too. All seems lost until Sydney Carton arrives on the scene. The last few pages turn very quickly indeed, as we wonder if his daring plan will work. The miracle that we hope for does happen, but leaves a lingering taste of sadness. Sydney Carton’s final words- “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”- are some of the most famous words in literature.

This version is abridged for young readers, but retains the language and style of Dickens. Classics are generally considered boring as they move along slowly. That impression cannot apply to this book. A Tale of Two Cities is sure to absorb and enrich the reader. Best suited for readers of 13 and above.

Born in 1812, Dickens had a difficult childhood. He worked as a clerk in a lawyer’s office, and later became a reporter in the House of Commons. His early writings were humorous. Many of his novels appeared as serial stories in magazines. A Tale of Two Cities was first published as a serial story in 1859. It is one of the best-loved novels of Dickens, along with Great Expectations, David Copperfield and Oliver Twist.
Abridged by: Linda Jennings
Pages: 371
Published by: Puffin Books –1995 (First Published 1859.)
Price: Rs 214/-
ISBN: 0-14-037336-5
Format: Paperback.

Review by Revathi Sachidanandam.

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