Book Review: A Tale of Two Cities

charles dickensThis is the first Dickens novel I’ve read in its entirety. I’ve read parts of Hard Times in third year university.

I understand why Dickens is still considered one of the greatest and most popular fiction writers ever. Although his work was published in the 19th century, the language he used was plain enough that he’s still readable today.

I’ve experienced other novels written around the same time period and they’ve been harder to slog through. Most recently I abandoned ship on Moby Dick. Pardon the pun. Once Ishmael started expounding on the history of whaling, I went cross-eyed and I reached for something more riveting.

Two Cities is not like that, though. Dickens never wavers from the story. Even though its based on an historical event, the French Revolution, there are no moments where Dickens begins to lecture. He assumes everyone knows what’s happening in France. And even if you don’t, you soon learn through his story.

It was first published in 1859 and set in England and France. The book was published first in installments in Dickens’ magazine All the Year Round [1]. It quickly became a bestselling novel. With over 200 million copies sold worldwide, it’s one of the most popular books of fiction of all time[2].

A Tale of Two Cities illustration by Hablot Brown. Source:

A Tale of Two Cities illustration by Hablot Brown.

If you ever wanted to learn more about the French Revolution, this would be the book I recommend you read. Dickens captured the brutality, anger and horror of the citizens uprising with beautiful prose, excellent characters (The Vengeance! What a name!) and graceful story-telling.

Recently I won a copy of The Other Woman and passes to see the movie, both based on the real-life relationship Dickens had with 18 year-old actress Ellen Ternan. I haven’t gone to see the film yet, but I’ll definitely share how it goes. Some believe that the character Lucie Manette in Two Cities was drawn from Ellen Ternan[3].

There have been seven film adaptations of A Tale of Two Cities, four of which were silent films released between 1911 and 1927[4].

I think I need to go back to Hard Times and give it another go. Along with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, Dickens is fast becoming one of my favourite English writers.


1. David Perdue’s Charles Dickens Page. A Tale of Two Cities Illustrations.

2. A Tale of Two Cities.

3. A Tale of Two Cities: Relation to Dickens’ personal life.

3. A Tale of Two Cities: Adaptations.


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2 thoughts on “Book Review: A Tale of Two Cities

  1. durhamnukes January 31, 2014 at 8:03 am Reply

    You’ve made me want to read it; thanks!!

    • admin January 31, 2014 at 4:46 pm Reply

      You’re welcome!

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