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A Tale of Two Cities Read-Along Update #3: It Gets Better

 Having the worst of times figuring our what this is all about? See the master post!

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I’m so late with this post, I considered just rolling it into next Monday’s. But, this section was important because it turned things around for me. I was feeling very “I’ve made a huge mistake” (say that in a Job from Arrested Development voice) about this whole thing until after page 200. But I swear, it kept getting better and better. I hope most of you are hanging in there!

Why I got back into #1Tale2Cities in this section:

1. Dr. Mannett & Mr. Lorry
I love the scene where Mr. Lorry talks to Dr. Mannett about this affliction, without actually talking about it. A predecessor of the “I have this friend…” I found these two charming in this scene, and I started to understand the role Mr. Lorry plays in their lives.

2. Madame Defarge and The Vengeance
Still bad-ass. First of all, we learn Mme. D’s first name is Therese, which is also my middle name. Then she acquired a sidekick named “The Vengence.” They also behead a couple people in this section. Madame D. also tells Lucie off, which is all good in my books. Lucie is begging for mercy for her husband and child because sisterhood or whatever and Mme. D is all, cool story, Citoyenne, but I will fully kill your husband in the name of la revolution!

coolstory

3. Sydney
Yes, his constant grovelling is annoying. In this section, though, I realized what his ultimate role was going to be – and having finished the book, I know I was right. And I love that. I love that this book is somewhat predictable. It’s a comfort read in a way. Pretty good for a book in which people are horribly killed and mutilated and what not.

4. The Grindstone
I just love this:

The great grindstone, Earth, had turned when Mr. Lorry looked out again, and the sun was red on the courtyard. But, the lesser grindstone stood alone there in the calm morning air, with a red upon it that the sun had never given, and would never take away.

But it’s not all good news…

1. Lucie
She still sucks.

That’s pretty much it. I like everyone else except Lucie. I might like Lucie, if I knew anything about her.

The Best of Blogs

Check out these posts from the #1Tale2Cities readers-along:

If you write an update post this week, link it in the comments and I’ll update here in the main post.

Tales Heard Round the Internet

Tune in next Monday for: the end! 

Did anyone else think it got a lot better in this section?

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A Tale of Two Cities Read-Along Update #2: Two Mary Sues

 Having the worst of times figuring our what this is all about? See the master post!

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I know a lot of us are struggling right now. Too many characters, too many storylines, too many WORDS (and this isn’t even a long book by Dickens standards!) Here are some resources:

  • The gold standard: Spark Notes. I do two things when I finish a chapter: read the end notes, and read the Spark Notes summary. Each chapter is summed up in about a paragraph, and there’s some analysis every couple of chapters. Plain language, no spoilers.
  • Reader-along Consumed by Ink wrote a great post just today that lists all the major storylines. She should write for Spark!
  • TOTC was an Oprah’s Book Club selection in 2010. There are a bunch of resources at the link, but my favourite is the super-succinct character list.

On to chapters 6 through 16, Book the Second, in which we meet even more new characters, but at least some of them die right away.

The Two Mary Sues
I know some of you are having a hard time connecting to the characters. I am too. I think it’s because the romantic leads (at this point, anyway) are such Mary Sues. Mary Sue comes from the world of fanfic (what? I have diverse interests) and means an idealized heroine. She’s beautiful, thoughtful, athletic, intelligent, resourceful, and boring as hell. Lucie is a total Mary Sue. She’s described as a doll a few times, and that’s how I feel about her: she’s just a shell. She’s the perfect daughter and every guy she meets falls in love with her.

Charles isn’t much better. He at least has some DEEP DARK secret, but he’s good looking, hard working, devoted, respectful. He’s a total Noel (WARNING link is a six-minute montage of Felicity and Noel moments and may cause nausea, dizziness, and extreme boredom.)

Hopefully Dickens won't try to make Charles interesting by having him go crazy and get a tattoo like a certain someone I know

Hopefully Dickens won’t try to make Charles interesting by having him go crazy and get a tattoo like a certain late-90s show did… ahem

I didn’t like how the courtship with Lucie is totally glossed over – we never find out how Lucie feels about Charles, because I guess it’s just obvious that she would love him? And her relationship with her father is a bit much. She’s always trembling and throwing herself on him and declaring her love. It’s kind of creepy.

There are some great, flawed, INTERESTING characters in this book and so far, when Lucie and Charles are on the scene, I just want to get back to them: Sydney and his alcoholism, Jerry and his grave-robbing, Stryver and his, well, striving.

Vive La Revolution
My favourite part of this section was the Marquis chapters. I usually don’t like it when a character is obviously there just for social commentary, and the Marquis is the embodiment of cruelty and excess of the aristocracy that lead to the revolution. But how can I resist a guy who requires four “lacqueys” to make his hot chocolate? And whose morning agenda appears to be sashaying around his palace? His cruelty is similarly exaggerated, and his offhand remark upon trampling a small child reminded me of Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada:

“It is extraordinary to me,” said he, “that you people cannot take care of yourselves and your children.”

miranda

I also really like Dickens’ use of repetition – of words, phrases, styles – to (I think) convey the grinding povery and hunger and injustice that just never ends.

Madame Defarge: Just Keep Knitting
Mme. D. is my favourite character so far. In this section, she is described as having “the steadfastness of Fate” and as seeing and hearing “something inaudible and invisible” so I’m pretty sure she’s got super powers.

The Best of Blogs

Check out these posts from the #1Tale2Cities readers-along:

If you write an update post this week, link it in the comments and I’ll update here in the main post.

Tales Heard Round the Internet

Tune in next Monday for Book the Second chapters 7-24 and Book the Third chapters 1-3. 

What did you think? Who are your favourite characters so far?

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!

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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.

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