Friday, December 25, 2009

A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (Recommended)

I just finished A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

I had the following conversation with a student:

"Mr. Lee, what are you reading?"
I turned the book to its cover so the student can read the title.
"Mr. Lee, that's cool. I read that book when I was in elementary school?"
I thought, "Really? I'm reading it now and I don't understand a lot of what is written. How could you have possibly understood it when you were in elementary school?"
At that point, I felt stupid. But that's okay. I shouldn't compare myself to others anyway. My reading strength is what it is. AND, by reading Dickens, I am flexing my reading muscle so, maybe one day, I'll be a stronger reader. Maybe one day, I can say, "Yeah, Dickens is an easy read." But until that day, I will struggle with reading Dickens.

This brings me to my first point: the book is hard to read. The reading level, I thought, was high. Dickens is into word play and puns but these puns are dated and archaic. I didn't understand a lot of it.

The pacing a very different than a modern novel. There are little cliffhangers throughout the book in regular intervals. I think this was a product of it being a serial novel. The novel was released in parts on a weekly basis. The end of each installment ended on a cliffhanger to get the reader to eagerly anticipate the next installment.

The book was broken up into three smaller books. The third book's pacing was very different than the first two. The third book's pacing was much faster and much more exciting.

Dickens is a brilliant writer. He writes at so many different levels. Some of the imagery that he uses is powerful. Very powerful. There are few writers today that can rival Dickens imagery. One image is when peasants drink wine that has spilled cask from the cobblestones to show how poor and desperate peasants at that time were and another is how the marquis throws coins to placate a grieving father after he has run the peasant's son over with his horse and cart to show how the aristocracy thought the peasants were worthless. His themes are also intricately interconnected.

The writing style are usage is archaic making it difficult to read for me. But I'm sure that if I continued to read Dickens novels (which I plan to do), it will get easier to read.

One character to note is Sydney Carton. The book is full of two dimensional characters; most of the characters seem to feel only one emotion or seem to have only one motive. I think that this is common for books from this period in time. But Sydney Carton is different. He is initially introduced as a drunk but later on in the book, because of his love for a woman, he does some truly heroic things. His motives are complicated and his feelings are complicated. I enjoyed him as a character. His character seems anachronistic; he seems to be from a modern novel with mixed morally ambiguous motives stuck in an old book where this type of character is unheard of.

Overall, the book was brilliant.
I found it hard to read but, in the end, it was definitely worth reading.
The writing was archaic.
The pacing was archaic.
The images were brilliant.
The character of Sydney Carton was outstanding.
I recommend this book. It is not highly recommended because I of my own lack of reading skills; it was hard for me to read.

Good times.

Merry Christmas everyone.

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