Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

I have now decided to review all the books that I read. The latest being the not so latest novel "A tale of two cities" by Charles Dickens. This novel was first published about 150 years ago, but still it manages to capture the attention and imagination of the reader.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,...."

The above often repeated quote is the starting sentences of this novel. The story is set around the time of french revolution in the late 1700's and begins with the homecoming of a Doctor named Manette. He was imprisoned in the Bastille by the French aristocracy for 18 years without a trial nor reason, literally driving him to insanity. At last he is released and is brought back to England by his daughter Lucie, who restores him back to health.
Meanwhile a young Frenchman named Charles Darney is accused of spying and is standing trial in London to which the Doctor and his daughter are summoned as witnesses. The Frenchman gets acquitted based on the defense argument that the accused might have been mistaken for someone else and this they try to prove based on the striking resemblance of Darnay to another person sitting in the court called Sydney Carton.
Darney falls in love with Lucie and gets married to her. Few years roll on in their blissful happiness to be broken by a letter from France. The letter is addressed to Darney who was an aristocrat by birth and had a vast property which he had denounced while leaving France. The french revolution had now taken place in France and all persons connected to royalty or aristocracy were put to death. The servant who was temporarily looking after Darney's property was standing on a death row from which only Darney could save him. Out of compassion Darney decides to go back to France little knowing what troubles await him there.
The moment Darney arrives in Paris he is taken a prisoner and put on a deathrow. The Docter and Lucie also come after him to do their best to save him. The Docter soon builds a reputation based on his past sufferings in the hands of the Aristocracy and his 18 years in prison. But a letter written by the Doctor when in prison denouncing the person who put him in prison and his whole family proves to be Darney's undoing. It turns out that the Darney's father was the cause of Docter's sufferings. The rowdy French crowd bayes for Darney's blood for the sins commited by his father and the jury orders for his execution within 24 hours.
The Climax consists of how Darney manages to escape from prison back to England.
All in all a wonderful read, This tells you the hopelessness of those times. The struggles of those times to build a free world, and the abyss to which France had fallen and risen.