A Tale of Two Cities Read-Along: Knitting for Dummies

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!

That Madame Defarge. What a hipster.

That Madame Defarge. What a hipster.

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.

Google Dickens + Gothic and you will mostly get corsets and little hats. This is a family show, so here's a hat.

Google “Dickens + Gothic” and you will mostly get corsets and little hats. This is a family show, so here’s a hat.        Via topsyturvydesign.com.


The Best of Blogs
Check out these posts from the #1Tale2Cities readers-along:

And let’s welcome to new readers-along A World of Books and Exploring Classics! You guys have some catching up to do.

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!
  • I couldn't convince Ben to watch this, but he'll watch Ghostbusters II every day, twice a day if I let him. His Bill Murray priorities are all messed up.

    I couldn’t convince Ben to watch this, but he’ll watch Ghostbusters II every day, twice a day if I let him. His Bill Murray priorities are all messed up.


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?



  1. lostgenerationreader

    Ha! I’m a little obsessed, indeed. That being said, I will admit that I haven’t started the book yet. I’ll be starting tonight and will most likely be all caught up for the second round of updates. I’ll hold off on reading most of this post until I’m caught up, as I’m sure there’s a spoiler in here somewhere. 🙂

  2. bookgeeking

    I did not know this was happening, is it okay if I join in? I have been meaning to read this for ages, I will catch up quickly (I hope). This is a great idea, I too will read the post properly once I have read the first six chapters 🙂

  3. Naomi

    I like his wordiness, even though as I read it and enjoy it, I am also thinking to myself that he could easily be telling the story in a lot less time. But where would be the fun it that? I love his humour and lengthy descriptions! I still don’t know where the story is going, though. I’m surprised that I don’t know, somehow, by now, how the story goes. The Muppets didn’t make this movie. I think they should!

  4. 1tonyrex

    Can I just say… As the person who chose this book for this read-a-long, I am very happy to be reading another classic. That being said, I am at a complete loss as to what is happening in the general story. After reading your post, I almost want to go back and read all these chapters again, but let’s be honest with each other… That is not going to happen. I can still claim to everyone that I read Dickens even if I have no understanding as to what the plot is about right?

      • 1tonyrex

        I am just referring to the chapters in this last week. Your sister recommends the same thing but then I just feel like a cheater. You Canadians are always trying the easy route.

  5. jaynesbooks

    I love the wordiness of Dickens; the combination of description and the story was perfect. While some author’s tend to be wordy in the description, Dickens seems to conjure the right combination of description of story; in fact it seems that a lot authors want to emulate Dickens way too much at times. Since this my third reading of the book, I am totally not at all lost. Looking forward to reading next weeks section.

  6. ebookclassics

    I love Dickens’ writing even though I don’t always understand what he’s saying. I feel like he’s winking at us because it’s all in good fun. However, I wonder where we are going with all these characters. I keep feeling like I’m reading the Count of Monte Cristo again.

  7. Pingback: A Tale of Two Cities Read-Along: Master Post | Reading in Bed
  8. Pingback: Today I Learned – A Tale of Two Cities Edition | ebookclassics
  9. DoingDewey

    Thanks for sharing my event post! I’m a bit behind on the read-along (largely because of committing to so many events!) but I’ll hopefully get caught up this weekend 🙂

  10. chiggins82

    I just spent the last hour reading chapter summaries and I am understanding things much better now. I think my lack of knowledge on how Dickens writes, the time it is set and the fact that I am not reading every night is making this tough. It really helps to read a summary after the fact!

    Lucie seems like she is almost not real compared to the other characters though. I keep picturing her like a doll surrounded by a bunch of dirty drunk men. She seems like a central character, yet does nothing but look pretty.

  11. DoingDewey

    I just finally got caught up on the first week’s reading! I agree, Dickens does have away with words. Although it takes some thinking to get what he’s saying most of the time, once I do, I often find him very funny. Really enjoying this so far 🙂

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