A Tale of Two Cities - Dcember Group Read - Part Two

Diskutera75 Books Challenge for 2012

Bara medlemmar i LibraryThing kan skriva.

A Tale of Two Cities - Dcember Group Read - Part Two

Denna diskussion är för närvarande "vilande"—det sista inlägget är mer än 90 dagar gammalt. Du kan återstarta det genom att svara på inlägget.

Redigerat: dec 6, 2012, 2:41 am

This thread is to cover questions and discussions on Part Two: The Golden Thread of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

As this book has been made into so many movies over the years, I am using some of the various posters from these films as thread openers.

Return to Part One Here

Part Three - The Track of a Storm

nov 28, 2012, 3:22 pm

Love the film posters Judy! Elizabeth Allen's red cheeks are rather alarming though.

I just checked imdb and was really surprised to see the most recent adaptation was 1989.

nov 28, 2012, 6:28 pm

LOL Heather, they've really slapped the rouge on her!

Sounds like a new adaptation is overdue!

dec 2, 2012, 4:52 pm

I have a question: in chapter seven on about the second page of the chapter Monseigneur has been out to the Grand Opera and the Comedy, which had more influence on him than state affairs.. Then Dickens says:

"A happy circumstance for France, as the like always is for all countries similarly favored!---always was for England (by way of example), in the regretted days of the merry Stuart who sold it.


Redigerat: dec 2, 2012, 5:15 pm

Ooh, I think that one IS mine! :)

It's a reference to the fact that when Parliament cut off his funding, Charles II secretly took an allowance from Louis XIV of France, in return for a promise to convert to Catholicism (which he didn't actually keep, although he may have converted on his death bed). Prior to that, in 1662, Charles had also raised funds by selling Dunkirk, at that time an English province, to France. It was a very unpopular decision.

Charles had reopened the theatres upon taking the throne, and encouraged the arts during his reign, so he was always associated with those sorts of public activities, even apart from the fact that his most famous mistress was an actress.

dec 2, 2012, 9:39 pm

Well I'm glad I could throw one your way Liz and since there's no end to my lack of knowledge of English and French history, expect more. I'm wondering how much has already gone over my head although I read Bleak House earlier this year and, with the help of Wikipedia, enjoyed it immensely. Anyway, thank you Liz for straightening that out for me.

dec 3, 2012, 2:42 am

#5 Good catch Liz!

dec 3, 2012, 3:15 am

I don't quite know how I got here, and it certainly wasn't intentional, but I've come to regard the Stuarts as my particular provenance. :)

dec 3, 2012, 10:52 pm

Chapter 2 "they hanged at Tyburn, in those days, so the street outside Newgate had not obtained one infamous notoriety that has since attached to it." What does this mean?

I read in Cliff notes online that Tyburn was a hanging tree. Is this the the infamous notoriety? Are they speaking of something else the reader would know about at the time Dickens published?

dec 3, 2012, 10:56 pm

They stopped hanging people at Tyburn and began doing it directly outside Newgate Gaol; they kept that up until 1865, when they stopped having public executions.

dec 3, 2012, 11:02 pm

Thank you!

dec 3, 2012, 11:24 pm

Welcome!...although strictly, I shouldn't have answered you at all. Man, this is hard... :)

dec 4, 2012, 5:16 am

#12 :-)

Redigerat: dec 4, 2012, 9:51 am

A couple things about Jerry are making me wonder if they could be instrumental to future events.
1. Back in Book One - it was mentioned that Jerry came home from work with clean boots but in the morning they were muddy. Hmmm - sneaking out at night?

2. Mentioned in Book One and now again in Book Two, Chapter 2, (it's chapter 8 in my Kindle version) is the rust on Jerry's hands. I've no ideal if this is actual or metaphoroical.

dec 4, 2012, 10:01 am

#14 Lynda, I'm afraid the answer is 'Wait and see!' to both of those comments :-)

dec 4, 2012, 2:37 pm

I'm afraid the answer is 'Wait and see!'

Heh, heh, heh...

dec 4, 2012, 7:34 pm

Chapter 6

One thing I can count on with Dickens is his great characters. I am loving Miss Pross and the care she takes of her "Ladybird". Am I correct in my assumption that she is either a paid companion or housekeeper as she seems to fit both positions?

dec 5, 2012, 3:22 pm

#17 Yes, although I think if you could only afford one servant they wouldn't have a title such as housekeeper or cook they would just be your maid or girl of all work and would assist you with the household chores.

In situations like this where there's a strong relationship between the employer and the servant the position would be even more blurred such that Miss Pross is almost treated as one of the family (we learn in this chapter that she insists on taking most of her meals separately which would seem to indicate that Lucie and the Dr would prefer her to eat with them) and returns that feeling to Lucie so there isn't really a term to describe what she does but companion/housekeeper/cook/maid are, I think, all aspects of what she does.

We learn in this chapter that Miss Pross has been with Lucie since Lucie was 10 years old ("I have lived with the darling—or the darling has lived with me, and paid me for it; which she certainly should never have done, you may take your affidavit, if I could have afforded to keep either myself or her for nothing—since she was ten years old. And it's really very hard," said Miss Pross.) so I think she must also have been her governess for a time.

As an aside we also met Miss Pross in Ch 4 of Book 1 (The Preparation) although she wasn't named there.

A wild-looking woman, whom even in his agitation, Mr. Lorry observed to be all of a red colour, and to have red hair, and to be dressed in some extraordinary tight-fitting fashion, and to have on her head a most wonderful bonnet like a Grenadier wooden measure, and good measure too, or a great Stilton cheese, came running into the room in advance of the inn servants, and soon settled the question of his detachment from the poor young lady, by laying a brawny hand upon his chest, and sending him flying back against the nearest wall.

("I really think this must be a man!" was Mr. Lorry's breathless reflection, simultaneously with his coming against the wall.)

"Why, look at you all!" bawled this figure, addressing the inn servants. "Why don't you go and fetch things, instead of standing there staring at me? I am not so much to look at, am I? Why don't you go and fetch things? I'll let you know, if you don't bring smelling-salts, cold water, and vinegar, quick, I will."

There was an immediate dispersal for these restoratives, and she softly laid the patient on a sofa, and tended her with great skill and gentleness: calling her "my precious!" and "my bird!" and spreading her golden hair aside over her shoulders with great pride and care.

dec 5, 2012, 8:27 pm

Chapter 5

Mr. Stryver refers twice to Sydney Carton as "Memory". Did I miss the explanation for this reference?

Poor Mr. Carton is such a sad figure. Is his backstory eventually told?

dec 6, 2012, 2:43 am

I've added the Part Three of the Group Read, The Track of a Storm. The link is in the thread opener.

dec 6, 2012, 2:47 am

#19 This chapter shows Sydney Carton working for Mr. Stryver by reading through huge amounts of information for him and then explaining it/relaying the pertinent points for Mr Stryver. Mr. Stryver calls Carton 'memory' as Carton is really acting as his memory by learning all this information for him. We're not told exactly what Carton is memorising for Stryver but I think it would be reading through evidence, witnesses' statements and potentially any relevant case law.

The language used here isn't always clear so I'll try to pick out the passages which say this.

Firstly, this passage at the beginning of the chapter tells us that Mr. Stryver hadn't previously been known for his perception/understanding of his cases ("he had not that faculty of extracting the essence from a heap of statements") but that this has improved despite him spending so much time drinking with Mr Carton. (Really, it's because he's spending so much time with Carton).

It had once been noted at the Bar, that while Mr. Stryver was a glib man, and an unscrupulous, and a ready, and a bold, he had not that faculty of extracting the essence from a heap of statements, which is among the most striking and necessary of the advocate's accomplishments. But, a remarkable improvement came upon him as to this. The more business he got, the greater his power seemed to grow of getting at its pith and marrow; and however late at night he sat carousing with Sydney Carton, he always had his points at his fingers' ends in the morning.

Then we have the passage where we see Carton actually doing this work for Mr. Stryver. Carton is referred to here as the jackal and Mr. Stryver as the lion. The part I've underlined is where we see Carton giving Mr. Stryver a summary of what he's read until Mr. Stryver has understood it to his satisfaction.

The lion then composed himself on his back on a sofa on one side of the drinking-table, while the jackal sat at his own paper-bestrewn table proper, on the other side of it, with the bottles and glasses ready to his hand. Both resorted to the drinking-table without stint, but each in a different way; the lion for the most part reclining with his hands in his waistband, looking at the fire, or occasionally flirting with some lighter document; the jackal, with knitted brows and intent face, so deep in his task, that his eyes did not even follow the hand he stretched out for his glass—which often groped about, for a minute or more, before it found the glass for his lips. Two or three times, the matter in hand became so knotty, that the jackal found it imperative on him to get up, and steep his towels anew. From these pilgrimages to the jug and basin, he returned with such eccentricities of damp headgear as no words can describe; which were made the more ludicrous by his anxious gravity.

At length the jackal had got together a compact repast for the lion, and proceeded to offer it to him. The lion took it with care and caution, made his selections from it, and his remarks upon it, and the jackal assisted both. When the repast was fully discussed, the lion put his hands in his waistband again, and lay down to meditate. The jackal then invigorated himself with a bumper for his throttle, and a fresh application to his head, and applied himself to the collection of a second meal; this was administered to the lion in the same manner, and was not disposed of until the clocks struck three in the morning.

I don't think we do find out much more about Sydney Carton's backstory I'm afraid.

dec 6, 2012, 6:10 am

Thanks for explaining, Heather. LOL, One of my former bosses sure sounds like Stryver. Not a drinker but a donut man, :0) while his staff carried on his duties.

dec 6, 2012, 12:03 pm

I'm on chapter 7 and I've had to switch to audiobook. The old paperback from the library was irritating my asthma! The audiobook has a so so narrator, Simon Prebble. Luckily the system has an unabridged hardback that was published in 2011. It's on its way to me. Oh the perils of reading! ;)

I'm enjoying this tutored group read. I don't think I would have read this book on my own. Thank you all for doing this.

dec 6, 2012, 1:28 pm

21: I think I could use a Sydney Carton in my life! While I enjoyed the lion and jackal scene, I didn't totally get it. Thanks, Heather.

dec 6, 2012, 2:14 pm

#22 You're welcome Lynda.

#23 Roberta, that's real dedication to aToTC! I hope the hardback arrives soon.

#24 I think I could use a Sydney Carton in my life! Me too!

dec 8, 2012, 11:38 am

My hardback from the library came in yesterday and its in my hot little hands today. Onward! Now to reading with no wheezing. :)

dec 8, 2012, 12:12 pm

Roberta, when you said you going to get a 2011 edition of A Tale of Two Cities, I wondered if it would be that one. I love those Penquin classics hardcovers and ordered that version specifically for this group read. :)

dec 8, 2012, 2:58 pm

#26 I really love that cover too :-)

dec 8, 2012, 3:13 pm

Pat & Heather it is a beautiful edition. I'm enjoying it.

Redigerat: dec 9, 2012, 8:02 am

I just had to comment that I completed chapter 13 in which Mr. Carton confides in Miss Mannette. What a beautifully written chapter. Whatever the reader had thought of Carton up till this point is drastically changed.
Why did he choose this time to come forward? I think, knowing that Stryver was going to talk to Miss Mannette he felt that this was his last and only opportunity to address her in such a fashion.
Think I'll go back and read Carton's lines again. They were that good.

dec 9, 2012, 12:05 pm

#30 It is a beautiful chapter Lynda although I think Mr. Carton knew that Mr. Stryver had changed his mind about marrying Lucie as it says:

On a day in August, when Mr. Stryver (after notifying to his jackal that "he had thought better of that marrying matter") had carried his delicacy into Devonshire

although we're not told whether Mr. Carton knew exactly what had taken place between Mr Stryver, Mr Lorry and the Manettes. I think you're right about why Carton choose this time to come forward but I think it might have been because he could see that someone else might be speaking to Lucie on a certain subject soon...

I like what Dickens had done with the chapter headings in chapter 12 and 13 too. Mr. Carton, the fellow of no delicacy, actually behaves with the most delicacy towards the Manettes.

dec 9, 2012, 1:01 pm

On a day in August, when Mr. Stryver (after notifying to his jackal that "he had thought better of that marrying matter") had carried his delicacy into Devonshire

Ah, Thanks for pointing that out, Heather. Another example as to why it's so nice to be reading this with others. That line went right over my head.

Redigerat: dec 9, 2012, 4:54 pm

I think the implication is that Stryver, who does after all rely on Carton's judgement in all other matters, slowly absorbed his suggestion that he would be rejected by Lucie. At first he can't believe it, but then he grows so outraged by the thought of the humiliation he might have suffered if he had gone ahead that afterwards he soothes his hurt feelings by telling other people that Lucie was trying to trap him.

dec 9, 2012, 10:37 pm

I've just realized the drawback of a tutored group read. I've skimmed the above, because I'm only on chapter 3 and I know some of the above will be for later chapters, but I wanted to find any discussion relating to where I am. But I'm still enjoying this and will get back to the other discussions as I get to those parts in the book.

Anyways, I was wondering how different, or similar, the judicial system was between 1780 and the 1850s (when Dickens published AToTC). Was it still common for condemned criminals to have their intestines burned before their eyes before the criminal was quartered? Were the gaols still as filthy and disease ridden? Or would Dickens' readers have been as horrified as we are by what Dickens wrote?

Also am I right in thinking the Old Bailey was just the courthouse, and Newgate was the jail as well as where hangings were carried out (though not until some time after 1780?

dec 9, 2012, 11:07 pm

Sandra, I think the easiest way is for you to go ahead and ask your questions / add your comments. If the issues have been raised before, we can point you back to those messages. We won't mind. :)

If you have questions / comments about a specific chapter, simply indicate it in bold in your post - Chapter 3.

Redigerat: dec 9, 2012, 11:23 pm

To offer a general response to your questions, the way the trial is conducted and the threatened punishment of being hanged, drawn and quarted was because Darnay is accused of treason.

The most significant difference to modern legal procedure is that Darnay is allowed a defence counsel ONLY because he is accused of treason; it was well into the 19th century before people charged with other crimes were permitted to be represented by a barrister.

Prison reform went on throughout the 19th century but it was a slow process and disease remained rife in the unsanitary conditions.

The Old Bailey is (was) the Central Criminal Court for England and Wales; it was renamed in the 1830s, but everyone continued to refer to it by its original name. It was next to Newgate Prison and there were connecting corridors beneath the two buildings through which the prisoners were moved.

dec 10, 2012, 2:30 pm

I just remembered something very silly, something I had completely forgotten about until I read Chapter 15. I first read this novel in 9th grade with a bunch of my girlfriends. I recalled that we all began calling each other Jacques. Jacque One, Two etc. Very silly now that I think of it. :0}

dec 10, 2012, 5:05 pm

#34 & 36 I don't think I have anything to add to Liz's response about the changes to the judicial system (I realised after reading your question that I had no idea how things had changed between the 1780s and 1850s) but please shout if anything is still unclear.

One thing I did find interesting about the trial scene described in chapter 3 was that Dickens had apparently based it on a real trial for treason which took place in 1781 which featured a French nobleman who had lived beyond his means and retired to exile in England. He was tried for treason on the grounds that he was a spy for the French government. The French nobleman was found guilty and subjected to the punishment Dickens describes it in this chapter.

#37 :-D

dec 10, 2012, 6:15 pm

26 - I find myself coveting your edition of AToTC. There's not a rule for that in the 10 commandments is there? 'Thou shall not covet thy neighbours' books'.

Thanks Liz and Heather.

I've read some more and I get the feeling the judicial system is not quite so horrifying in Dickens day (though I don't know how much less worse it was). He seems to be stressing to the reader how gruesome it was in the late 1700s, and how much the citizens seemed to get off on it, as if to remind us how bad it was before.

37 - *giggle*

dec 10, 2012, 6:24 pm

>39 sandragon: Covet away! Covet away! I will join you in coveting because "my copy" belongs to Fort Bend County Library. It really is a gorgeous edition with some nice illustrations, an exquisite cover and a red book mark.

Let's covet Pat's (phebj) copy post #27!

dec 10, 2012, 7:00 pm

*covetously eyes Pat's edition in post 27*

dec 10, 2012, 7:34 pm

#40 and 41--LOL! I actually covet all of the Penguin classics hardcovers even the ones I have no interest in reading. When I was trying to figure out whether to join this Group Read one of the deciding factors was that it would justify ordering that edition of the book.

dec 11, 2012, 3:56 am

OK this mail coach passenger is catching up. I'm onto Chapter 4 and I'm amazed how readable this is. It's my first real Dickens (I read his On Travel a few years ago for the Early Reviewers program) and I am surprised at how much I want to find out what's about to happen.

Mundane question for everyone - how many pages should my book have? I am reading on my Kindle and I can't even figure out what edition I've got. It's the only one I could find of ATOTC, so it's not a Penguin or anything. (The Kindle store we have access to is the international one which might affect what's for sale.) And it seems very short at 237 "pages". But it doesn't say abridged anywhere... I **hate** the thought of reading an abridged version.

When I studied law we had to do a moot, and I remember giggling at referring to the other law student "my learned friend". First time I have read it since 1991!

OK back to the end of Charles Darnay's trial. I've skimmed the questions above where they relate to later chapters. I'm guessing that Jerry is some kind of thief in the night but can't figure out where the rust is coming from yet.

dec 11, 2012, 6:53 am

#43 My copy has 389 pages excluding notes and introductions but that does include some illustrations so say 370 pages. If you want to compare then the Project Gutenberg edition is definitely not abridged and you can do a quick comparison between this and your version by clicking the html link. I think you should be able to transfer the ebook file to your ipad to read too.

dec 11, 2012, 11:27 am

I have been alternating between the Kindle version on my phone and a paper version. The Kindle copy is 180 pages with illustrations. It's not a Project Gutenberg edition and it doesn't note anywhere whether it's abridged or otherwise. The paper copy is 414 pages with no illustrations. I often go back to the Kindle version to look up a word quickly in its dictionary and so far haven't noticed any differences between copies (though I haven't really compared the two.) I'd assumed the difference in page numbers was due to formatting differences.

dec 11, 2012, 12:43 pm

Thanks Heather and Sandragon. I've downloaded the project Gutenberg edition and can't see any differences so far. I'll switch over to it just in case!

dec 11, 2012, 1:37 pm

Just returned from the library with my copy of the video version of AToTC. It is a Masterpiece Theatre Presentation. None of the actors (James Wilby, Anna Massey) seem familiar to me but perhaps when I see them I'll remember them. I'll hold off watching it until I've finished the book.

dec 11, 2012, 3:30 pm

#47 Let us know your thoughts on the adaptation Lynda. I haven't watched any of aToTC before.

dec 12, 2012, 6:46 am

Chapter 19

I have a question regarding a quote in Chapter 19. Lorry is talking to Dr. Manette about a "friend" who suffers from anxiety and feels the need to go back to "blacksmithing" during these episodes.

Dr. Manette's professional opinion is "no doubt it relieved his pain so much, by substituting the perplexity of the fingers for the perplexity of the brain, and by substituting, as he became more practised, the ingenuity of the hands, for the ingenuity of the mental torture; that he has never been able to bear the thought of putting it quite out of his reach."

Can't this also be applied to Madam Defarge? - I may be reading too much into this, as I normally do :0}

dec 12, 2012, 2:21 pm

#49 I think it could be applied to Madame Defarge although I didn't pick up on anything that made me think knitting was an activity she'd used to distract her from earlier painful experiences (although that doesn't mean she didn't). The main reason why she knits so much was covered in chapters 15 & 16, Knitting and Still Knitting - the knitting register Madame Defarge keeps seems to record the enemies of the Jacques as well as all the crimes that their enemies have committed against them (and presumably the members of the revolutionary group itself).

Redigerat: dec 13, 2012, 10:25 am

I didn't pick up on anything that made me think knitting was an activity she'd used to distract her from earlier painful experiences (although that doesn't mean she didn't).

True, Heather, I thought more about this yesterday and unlike Manette, Madam Defarge did not go into some catatonic state while she busied herself with knitting. Her knitting had a purpose while Manette's shoes don't seem to have any other than to pass the time away.

ETA: I'm looking forward to seeing the movie Les Miserables over the holidays and though I read the book years ago I can't recall if it took place around the same time in history as AToTC. Is someone able to refresh my memory?

dec 13, 2012, 12:26 pm

I got up early this morning and finished book two!

Redigerat: dec 13, 2012, 2:39 pm

>>#51 Les Miserables takes place at a later period, Lynda: it begins in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, after Waterloo, and climaxes during the Paris rebellion of 1832. The uprising was anti-monarchist, so there is a philosophical connection to A Tale Of Two Cities.

dec 16, 2012, 1:01 pm

Chapter 14

I just found out what Jerry Chapman's been doing with his evenings. The thought of what the rust coloured stuff probably is, that he's been sucking off his fingers, is just ... Ewwww!

dec 16, 2012, 1:27 pm

#51 & 54 It's been years since I read Les Mis but I only recently found out that it was set in the 1830s. My younger self got all the French rebellions confused...

#52 Well done Roberta!

#54 Yes, indeed. Ewwww!

dec 16, 2012, 1:40 pm

#53 Thanks for the info, Liz. I had not realized that France had so many years of turmoil.

#54 I'm back to reading between the lines, rust is said to taste like blood - and there is a lot of it being shed on both sides of the channel.

dec 18, 2012, 10:29 am

#56 "rust is said to taste like blood - and there is a lot of it being shed on both sides of the channel."

You could have something there Lynda. I think Dickens also used wine to symbolize blood, particularly thinking back to Ch 5 The Wine-Shop (quote below), but I hadn't stopped to think about the significance of the rust before.

"The wine was red wine, and had stained the ground of the narrow street in the suburb of Saint Antoine, in Paris, where it was spilled. It had stained many hands, too, and many faces, and many naked feet, and many wooden shoes. The hands of the man who sawed the wood, left red marks on the billets; and the forehead of the woman who nursed her baby, was stained with the stain of the old rag she wound about her head again. Those who had been greedy with the staves of the cask, had acquired a tigerish smear about the mouth; and one tall joker so besmirched, his head more out of a long squalid bag of a nightcap than in it, scrawled upon a wall with his finger dipped in muddy wine-lees—BLOOD."

dec 18, 2012, 11:16 am

Rust taste like blood and old blood smells like rust because both contain iron.

Heme = The deep red, oxygen-carrying, nonprotein, ferrous component of hemoglobin

Rust = A reddish- or yellowish-brown flaky coating of iron oxide that is formed on iron or steel by oxidation, esp. in the presence of moisture

That Dickens sure knew how to bring it all full circle, wine, rust and blood. A lot of crimson sunsets too.

Redigerat: dec 21, 2012, 9:17 pm

Chapter 16 Still Knitting

John Barsad seems like quite a seedy and untrustworthy character. He gambles and has been in debtor's prison several times. He drinks. He cheats. He lies.
•How is it that he is employed by the government as a spy?
•It seems like part of his spying duties include falsely accusing people of traitorous behaviour (chapter 3) like he does with D'Arnay. Is this just to cause trouble for any French?
•Is this what he is doing now in Paris, when we see him in the Defarge wine-shop? Creating unrest in France?

dec 23, 2012, 12:59 pm


John Barsad seems like quite a seedy and untrustworthy character. He gambles and has been in debtor's prison several times. He drinks. He cheats. He lies.

How is it that he is employed by the government as a spy?

Some explanation of this is provided in Chapter 8: A Hand at Cards in Book 3 of aToTC. I think after the outcry against Barsad and Cly for being spies (shown in Chapter 14 - The Honest Tradesmen) they flee Britain. I think Barsad had probably had previous employment in France (see my answer below) which made him think he could get some kind of employment there. And as he's had experience of being a spy, I guess he felt that might be a good starting point in France!

I think Barsad turning up again as a spy for the French government is just one of Dickens' coincidences. I don't think there are any other reasons given in the story.

It seems like part of his spying duties include falsely accusing people of traitorous behaviour (chapter 3) like he does with D'Arnay. Is this just to cause trouble for any French?

I don't think we're told clearly who Barsad was acting as a 'hired spy and traitor' for (as Mr Stryver puts it in Chapter 3) but it's probably someone French (as being a spy for the British government would not be evidence against him in the trial) and I suspect the Marquis d'Evremonde would have the strongest motives for wanting Darnay put away. Darnay almost accuses the Marquis of doing so in Chapter 9 - The Gorgon's Head. ("Indeed, sir," pursued the nephew, "for anything I know, you may have expressly worked to give a more suspicious appearance to the suspicious circumstances that surrounded me.")

So, the spying duties in chapter 3 were probably not for the French government, who wouldn't have had any particular reason to cause issues for Darnay at that time.

Is this what he is doing now in Paris, when we see him in the Defarge wine-shop? Creating unrest in France?

Barsad is employed as a spy for the French government - he's trying to discover the revolutionaries to report them to the French government so that they can be arrested before they start any trouble. Unfortunately Barsad has been described to the Defarges so they're very careful not to get drawn into any incriminating discussions with him.

dec 30, 2012, 9:07 pm

Thanks, Heather. I've finished AToTC and it all started to come together in the third book. Especially after reading the bit about spying being a shameful occupation. I guess, since James Bond came on the scene, nowadays being a spy seems more of a glamourous career choice.

dec 31, 2012, 4:25 pm

I'm moving quickly to finish; the pace of the novel started picking up at the beginning of Part II, and now I can't wait to find out what happens next! This is a tremendous book, and I'm glad to have this be my capstone book for the year!

Karen O.

jan 1, 2013, 7:56 am

#61 Glad it all started to come together for you sanddragon - congratulations on finishing it!

#62 Glad you're enjoying it Karen - did you finish it yet?

jan 1, 2013, 6:05 pm

I finished! I was surprised by how the story pulled me in in Books 2 and 3 (I had a hard time slogging through Book 1, but I know now that the setup work was necessary). Wonderful story, wonderfully written. I was sobbing at the end.

My favorite characters were: Carton (of course), but also Miss Pross. Excellent characterizations.

One of my goals for 2012 was to read some Dickens, so I made a start of it. Any suggestions on what Dickens to read next? Maybe Great Expectations?

Thanks for running this group read, and for the incentive that it provided.

Happy New Year!

Karen O.

p.s. I realized, on reread, that my post sounds very terse! I'm catching up my 2012 thread reading so that I can make a clean sweep and get set up for 2013.

jan 2, 2013, 2:37 pm

#64 I'm really glad you enjoyed it Karen.

It's a bit tricky recommending a Dickens to follow up A Tale of Two Cities with because aToTC isn't a typical Dickens novel in many ways - it's shorter than his average novel and it moves a long at a faster pace (I think) than most of his books.

Great Expectations might be a good book to follow up with - it's another Dickens written towards the end of his career and it's another relatively short book (for Dickens). Unfortunately it's been years since I read it and it's one of the Dickens novels about which I remember the least so I don't feel very well placed to recommend it or not.

Other Dickens that might be worth considering - these are all quite long though:

Oliver Twist - one of his earlier novels so not as complex as his later books but I found it to be a gripping and sometimes chilling read. I can see you've catalogued this so you might have already read it.
David Copperfield - a lot of this is autobiographical so it gives some good background to Dickens early years and has some great characters.
Bleak House - I think my very favourite. It's long and it does have a complex plot surrounding the legal system of the time but I think it's worth it.
Our Mutual Friend - another long novel which is one of Dickens' later works. It has some similar themes to aToTC particularly around sacrifice and redemption.

If you wanted to read any of those in a tutored read context then let me (or Liz) know.

jan 2, 2013, 4:16 pm

If I can butt into this, I would ask whether you want the next read to be a "typical" or another "atypical" Dickens novel?

The problem with the Victorians is that their best novels are nearly always their longest, which means you tend to end up recommending "second-tier" works, to avoid frightening people off by threatening them with chunksters. :)

Heather is right about A Tale Of Two Cities being unrepresentative of Dickens; so is Great Expectations (for reasons that can't be explained without spoilers!).

David Copperfield is Dickens' most autobiographical work. Oliver Twist is (unlike AToTC and GE) fairly representative. The Pickwick Papers is more overtly humorous than many of the later works, and episodic in a way that makes it easy to read. Any of these might be a good place to start, before deciding if you were up to tackling something like Bleak House.

Oh, and yes, if you feel you need help, please feel free to ask for a tutored read! :)

jan 2, 2013, 5:07 pm

I have read Oliver Twist. I plan to read them all, eventually. I have Great Expectations on my new Nook, so maybe I'll read that next, keeping what you say in mind. You've certainly piqued my interest in the others! Thanks for the advice!

Karen O.