Friday, 9 November 2012

A Tale Of Totally Epic

This is not a review, since I cannot find fault with this book and therefore would come across as utterly bias. It’s not a study, an essay, an exploration or any of the things this book deserves, (and, unsurprisingly, has been subject to for decades). This is an entreaty, to writers everywhere, to get yourselves a copy.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

For me, just reading those famous words was a thrill. Charles Dickens’ classic, A Tale Of Two Cities, was finally mine to discover. I expected everything people say about his work – pages of exposition marring an otherwise entertaining storyline – but I was wrong.  The showing instead of telling was at times breathtaking. The use of original, detailed descriptions for emotions, settings and beats (actions that break up dialogue), put our modern day clichés to shame.  The mystery and suspense built upon itself with more strength, complexity and eventual closure than anything I’ve ever read before, and I’m genuinely afraid I’ll never enjoy anything as much again.

Everything a writer must do is hidden within these pages, but don’t think you can’t be won over as a reader too. What with murder, romance, satire, mystery, drama and the cold reality that this was based on genuine historical events, it’s no surprise that I found myself laughing, crying sobbing into my own snotty jumper sleeve, and holding my breath as I read. Having said that, I do believe writers will gain the most from this book, and since it’s clear I could rave about this for hours if I let myself, I’ll just leave you with some examples of what I’m talking about. And if you’re still in any doubt, just remember that if you’ve got an e-reader you can download this for free in about two seconds, so go do that. Now.

Examples. (Because I’m a nerd and I love ‘em!)

  • Using ordinary settings to foreshadow the mood of the novel:
It was a large, dark room, furnished in a funereal manner with black horsehair, and loaded with heavy dark tables. These had been oiled and oiled, until the two tall candles on the table in the middle of the room were gloomily reflected on every leaf; as if they were buried, in deep graves of black mahogany, and no light to speak of could be expected from them until they were dug out.

  • Omnipresent narration:
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… one tall joker… scrawled upon a wall with his finger dipped in muddy wine-lees— BLOOD.
The time was to come, when that wine too would be spilled on the street-stones, and when the stain of it would be red upon many there.

  • Showing instead of telling, using the (now-cliched) beat of someone blushing:
A light, or a shade… passed from his face as swiftly as a change will sweep over a hill-side on a wild bright day…

  • Symbolism (knitting being both a tool for characterization and a recurring metaphor for the oppressed class’ growing desire for revolution):
They knitted worthless things; but, the mechanical work was a mechanical substitute for eating and drinking . . . if the bony fingers had been still, the stomachs would have been more famine-pitched.

And there you have it. Rant. Over.


  1. I really like that narration about the wine, I may just have to find this book now...

    1. You should read it in context. It comes out of nowhere and sends a chill right through you. :)

    2. That's exactly what I thought. The wine definitely got me. And yet I've always heard that Dickens was kind of terrible.

  2. I love this book; the ending always upsets me.

    But Bleak House is my absolute favourite Dickens' novel.

    1. I cried my eyes out at the end! Haven't been so sad but happy but sad at myself for being happy in ages.

  3. i started the book when i was younger, never finished have peeked my interest again

    1. Yes the first chapter is a little slow and the whole thing takes some dedication at first but my gosh is it worth it. :)

  4. The Tale of Two Cities was the first Dickens' novel I ever read and I was hooked ever after on this author. So Dickens has a lot of exposition - when you write it as well as he then why not?
    Great examples, Kat.

  5. @ Lisa: Don't thank me, thank the D-man.:P
    @ Alice: Me too. It's tragic.