Whenever I think about A Tale of Two Cities, I will always remember that eloquent, haunting ending. I haven’t read a lot of books so I am not sure how much weight this statement carries, but I will say it anyway: that was the most powerful ending that I’ve ever read in all my years of being a reader.
A Tale of Two Cities has been one of those classics that I’ve long wanted to read. When I was a child, I had a bunch of those mass market paperback-sized illustrated classics for children, with hardback covers, colorful illustrations, and huge typesets, but with no authors. I remember distinctly that I had a copy of A Tale of Two Cities along with Pinocchio, Little Women, and The Jungle Book. What I couldn’t recall, however, is if I had actually read A Tale of Two Cities because unlike the other three, I couldn’t remember the story. I’m more inclined to think that I haven’t, because if I did, I think I’d remember the names of the characters, at the least.
But it doesn’t matter now because I’ve finally read A Tale of Two Cities – the novel in its original, serialized version – and totally, completely loved it.
This classic Dickens novel is set in, well, two cities: London and Paris. It begins with a journey from London, as young Frenchwoman Lucie Manette travels to Paris to be reunited with her father, Doctor Manette, a former Bastille prisoner now in the twilight of his years. With the help of a trustworthy businessman, Mr Lorry, the Manettes travel back to London to start life anew. There, their lives get intertwined with those of two men: Charles Darnay, an exiled French gentleman, and Sydney Carton, an English lawyer who has alcoholic tendencies. Both men fall in love with Lucie, and while Lucie makes her choice easily, a well-kept secret complicates things. This secret takes Charles, Lucie, and Sydney back to Paris – to the French spies, to La Guillotine, the Reign of Terror, and to their fates.