Having the worst of times figuring our what this is all about? See the master post!
This first section is, in a word, disorienting. The writing style, the cast of characters, the seemingly unrelated storylines, the mundane shoved up against the absurd, and of course, the movement between the two cities, are making my head spin. At the worst of times I wanted to put the book aside to give my brain a break. At the best of times I wanted to shove the book in people’s faces and say, “look! This is hilarious! This is unlike anything you’ve ever read, including everything that’s ever been called Dickensian!” I hope to get into a better groove in section two.
Knitting for dummies
The pattern on my edition of the book shows something (a scarf?) being knitted. So I can’t take credit for noticing the heavy symbolism of Madame Defarge’s constant knitting, but I’m thinking it has something to do with The Fates, who weave the fabric of a person’s life (and cut the thread when it’s done) and HOPEFULLY it means all the people and storylines introduced in this first section will be knit together into something coherent. There are a LOT of people, and things, and honestly I’m not always totally sure which of the two cities we’re in at any given point. I gather I’m not alone from some of the #1Tale2Cities tweets I’m seeing!
Can you imagine reading this in weekly installments, as it was serialized in 1859? I would have forgotten everything in between!
A way with words
Is it too obvious to say that Dickens has a way with words? I love the names (Jerry Cruncher!), the alliteration, the ridiculously wordy descriptions – even when they make my eyes cross. For example, he describes a waiting room as somewhere you “mediate(d) on a misspent life” and the smell of a seaside town as “of so strong a piscatory flavour that one might have supposed sick fish went up to be dipped in it, as sick people went down to be dipped in the sea.”
I also read the words “dear daughter” for the first time outside of a parenting forum. Do I have Dickens to “thank” for this insipid trend?
It’s Getting Goth in Here
I have always thought of Dickens as Victorian literature, and not Gothic literature, although of course to two overlap. So I was surprised at the Gothic elements so far:
- Dreams about disintegrating corpses
- A person locked in a tower
- An innocent girl with a mysterious past
- General debauchery
I don’t know enough about Dickens or the period to know if he’s just referencing some Gothic stuff for fun or if it continues throughout.
The Best of Blogs
Check out these posts from the #1Tale2Cities readers-along:
- ebookclassics is off to a good start. Check out the music-video-style Dicken bio. She also posted a very information Today I Learned post this week!
- Weekly Zen joins us for a reread
- Doing Dewey is going all out with bookish events!
- Lost Generation Reader is a little obsessed.
- Consumed by Ink got her Week 1 post up before I did. Keener!
- Reading in Winter called her first update a “vomit of confusion.” I feel a bit nauseated myself!
If you write a post for this first bit of reading, link it in the comments and I’ll update here in the main post.
Tales Heard Round the Internet
- How To Tell If You Are In A Charles Dickens Novel. The Toast doesn’t bill itself as a literary site, but it should. The first of these I noticed was a character being described as “stout.”
- Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 11%. Ouch. It was on TV this weekend, but the 4 year old wasn’t interested, so I don’t how faithful it was to the original. According to the plot summary, here is a Garfield look-alike, sort of like how Carton is a Darnay look-alike, so there may be something to it!
Tune in next Monday for Book the Second chapters 6 through 16.
What did you think? Are you thoroughly confused? Enjoying the wordiness? Thinking Garfield 2 might be a more enjoyable alternative?