Tuesday, 8 October 2013

A tale of two cities

This spring I had a "historical french literature"-theme, starting with The three Musketeers, going on to Les Miserables, and then the entire Scarlet Pimpernel-series.

After having read so much about the time around the French Revolution, I thought, "why not have a good and nice wrap-up to this theme, by reading A tale of two Cities?"

So I did... and it left me rather traumatised...

Don't get me wrong, it was a good book,with a plot full of twists and surprises, and probably gave the most accurate picture of the French Revolution, of all the books I have read, regarding that period of time.

And that was the traumatising part...

I guess I had a rather romantic view on the period, due to the 8 Scarlet Pimpernel-books I'd just read (and also because in Les Miserables, the main characters all loved the French Revolution), but there's nothing of that in Charles Dickens' writing -  it is all painfully realistic.

The following will contain a lot of spoilers, so if you intend to read the book, don't read this.

First of all I found the book a little confusing, due to the changes of narrators and all the characters you are introduced to, who don't seem to be connected at all. However I liked that you see some of the pre-revolution-France, it made me understand the reasons people had for rebelling more clearly. And I actually liked the revolutionaries - that is, until all the violence started.

At first I had a hard time discovering who was actually the main character - but I admit after being introduced to Sidney Carton, there wasn't any doubt. He is definitely my favourite character - and also the most pitiable character. I felt so sorry for him during the entire book, where he never got what he wanted. And then the ending. I think that was what traumatised me the most (I just don't like deaths in books/movies).

The last pages of the books I constantly hoped he would find an escape, and when he didn't I was just thinking, "WHY? WHY DID HE HAVE TO DIE?`"
By the way was I the only one thinking "where is the scarlet pimpernel when you need him" during the entire execution scene?

I was mostly shocked by the ending, because I was under the impression the Charles Dickens wrote happy endings. And yes, upon analysing the ending, I can see that in some way it was a happy ending for Sidney - he finally found a purpose with his life (even if was dying), and he saved the happiness of the woman he loved, but still... a happy ending in my opinion is no deaths whatsoever.

And another thing that irritated me to no ends, was that his sacrifice wouldn't even have been necessary if Charles Darnay hadn't been so stupid to go to France. I mean wasn't that rule no 1 for french aristocrats who valued their life? - "Don't go to France in the middle of a revolution, whose main purpose is to kill all of your kind."

So, yeah, after reading that book I swore never to read anything about the French revolution again ( I actually also swore I would never read Charles Dickens again, but I guess I can't blame him for writing realistically about a terrible time period)

So now I'm moving on to non-french authors and stories with a happier theme.



  1. Well, you don't need to swear off French books forever! I don't think I'd give up Les Mis even if every other French book on the planet was terrible. But not every French book is terrible...certainly Phantom of the Opera was very good (although also rather traumatizing), and I loooove TSP.
    And by the way, have you seen the Tale musical? It is SO GOOD. I just thought I'd recommend it. :)
    I've followed your blog- thanks for following mine! :)

    1. Well thanks a lot for following my blog :)
      Don't worry I have no intention of stop reading French books, I have way to many favourites to do that (especially the two you mention). I just intend read some books of another nationality.
      And no, haven't seen the musical, but seen it recommended at several blogs, so I just might watch it after all

  2. If you haven't read it and need a good post revolutionary story with romance and European history, spiced with fiction though, I can highly recommand "Désirée" by Annemarie Selinko. It would be interesting to hear you opinion about it
    Hugs :)


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