Book Reviews

A Tale of Two Cities

A tale of two cities Charles Dickens

About A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities portrays a world on fire, split between Paris and London during the brutal and bloody events of the French Revolution. After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille the aging Dr Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There, two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil lanes of London, they are all drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror and soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine. This edition uses the text as it appeared in its first serial publication in 1859 to convey the full scope of Dickens’s vision, and includes the original illustrations by H.K. Browne (‘Phiz’). Richard Maxwell’s introduction discusses the intricate interweaving of epic drama with personal tragedy.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.


A Tale of Two Cities was a book club read and a difficult read. I didn’t get much in the beginning, the struggle was real, from plot development, use of language to character development. I pressed on even with paragraphs that I did not understand. The first chapter was particularly slow and to me, it did not add value to the entire story line.

I kept asking myself why I was reading this book. I pressed on to the end. The book starts to make sense way later. My biggest question regarding this book is why Charles Dickens would put readers through so much suffering in trying to bring across issues that were affecting France and Britain. Surely there was a better way of putting the story across.

My take home theme from the book is Tyranny and Revolution. This theme resonates so well with what is happening in many African countries. Revolutions have happened in many countries and Charles Dickens was right that while tyranny will lead to revolution, revolution will lead back to tyranny because whoever is in power will be tempted to exercise their full power. My recent read Thomas Sankara: An African Revolutionary relates well to this theme. There were 3 coups in Burkina Faso as different factions tried to bring about a revolution in a country. These coups could however not fulfill the revolutions as they would have liked because each leader was tempted to exercise their full power and in the process forgetting he will of the people.

On characters, one that stood out for me was Jerry Cruncher. He reminds me of this gangster turned preacher who came to talk about his wayward ways on radio. This man was in the business of stealing coffins. To cut the long story short, he felt redeemed one day when all his accomplices were killed except him. He believed that it was the Lord Jesus who saved him and that not dying served as a warning for him to stop the business of stealing coffins.

There are books that are just not meant for me, this is one of them. Granted Charles Dickens has great talent, the prose was well done but the language difficult and one should not struggle through reading a book.


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