Classic Starts (TM): Oliver Twist: Retold from the Charles Dickens Original Hardcover – Abridged, 1 Mar 2006
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I am delighted to revisit this splendid novel via the "magic" of Kindle.
I have to say emphatically, "Yes". It's a classic of English literature which fully deserves its status. Thriller, romance, historical novel, spy story, tale of redemption, this superlative narrative delivers them all.
The core story is that of Dr Manette, rescued from a pre-revolutionary prison, and Charles Darnay, a Frenchman teaching his native language in England, also reprieved, from trumped up espionage charges, at the start of the book. The happy lives they build around Lucie, Manette's daughter are endangered when Darnay returns to Paris in the throes of revolution to repay a debt of honour. Around them, a typically Dickensian supporting cast including lawyers, bankers, grave robbers, embittered revolutionaries, dissolute aristocrats and saturnine road menders all play their parts.
One of the chief joys of the book is simply being in the presence of a master story teller brilliantly demonstrating his art and craft. It is beautifully structured, starting almost with an overture as Dickens sets out two of his major themes, of personal secrecy and of revolution, with, firstly, an almost heartbreaking passage in which he suggests that one of the great tragedies of death is that individuals will never truly understand what is in each other's hearts, and secondly with the breaking of a wine barrel at a bar prophesying the blood of the revolution which is to come. Thereafter the construction is fabulous, as Dickens skilfully sets the threads of his story twisting around each other, intertwining, disappearing from view, and reappearing when least expected, with seemingly minor events from one part of the story taking on major significance later in the novel. Finally, once the story has reached its conclusion, and the loose ends tied up, there is a brilliant device which succinctly tells of what happened afterwards.
The thriller element comes to the fore as the book gradually builds up pace before racing to an unbearably tense conclusion. The book's genesis as a newspaper serialisational so racks up the tension as one can almost hear the East Enders drumbeats when Dickens ends a section or chapter with a cliffhanger or shocking revelation.
As a historical novel, a Tale of Two Cities is quite stunningly violent. The portrayal of the storming of the Bastille and of the post-revolutionary Terror are not coy in their blood drenched description of events and in their generation of a genuine sense of horror at uncontrolled mob rule. However, the author doesn't give us a two dimensional picture of a blanket evil. He understands and frequently sympathises with the revolutionaries, showing them as individuals with credible desires and motivations. Dickens empathises with both the causes of the revolution and with its victims.
At times the writing style, to this modern eye, took some concentration to be able to follow the sometimes long and convoluted sentences, but it is an effort which it is well, well worth making for the repayment made by this rip-roaring adventure story.
So, this is a great work of literarture, a wonderfully crafted story, an insightful account of the humanity behind great events, and that would be more than enough, but then Dickens caps it all off by bookending a Tale of Two Cities with two of the most famous lines in English literature. "It was the best of times.....", "It is a far far better thing".
Very very highly recommended.
The story is appealing and the characters believable. The writing is skilful - though occasionally, because the English language has moved on, I had to stop to consider what the words actually mean. Now I intend to read more of Dickens.
His treatment of the themes of the French revolution are coloured by his Tory leanings, but it is a Primrose League, One Nation sentiment that is allowed to emerge, indicating the political consequences that could befall, without reform.
An emotional story of lives and redemption is moving, although there is humour.
To my mind, while some themes echo those of Victor Hugo, his characterisation is more convincing.
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Writing style is a fashionable thing. Language at the time was also different.Read more
My son found book v interesting
Good layout spaced out nicely so long however not look so