Tagged: Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities Read-Along Update #4: Friend Zoned

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

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Another late post. Shall I grovel and apologize for my wasted life and lack of morals, a la Sydney? Nah, let’s just get to it! We read to the end this week. Are YOU finished?

Miss Pross, Like a Boss
My favourite character has been Madame Defarge almost the whole way through, UNTIL NOW. I always liked Miss Pross. Her wild exaggerations, her creepy devotion to “ladybird,” her even creepier idolization of her brother, and her complete disdain for the French make her a “character” in the same way that Jerry is. I loved that she and Jerry end up together, abandoned by the main players, and that Miss Pross saves everyone in the end and busts a cap in Therese’s ass – who saw that coming?

Friendzoned
First of all: the whole concept of “the friendzone” is gross and sexist. However. Sometimes the term just fits. And Sydney is in the Friend Zone like whoa.

Up until now, the only “friend zoned 19th century French literary character” I knew was Eponine from Les Mis. We all cringed for her as Marius used her to get to Cossette. But Sydney Carton takes it to a whole new level – he never even really confesses his love, and doesn’t even get to die in Lucie’s arms.

eponine

The End
We all knew how this was going to end. We all knew the last line. But it still had an impact. I rushed to the end, but slowed down on the last pages, and that last line hit me, big time. I may have cried (I totally cried.) I have to say, though, I don’t know if Clueless was correct in its analysis that Sydney meant “Tis a far, far better thing doing stuff for other people.” Sydney sacrificed himself for Charles, but, it was really all for Lucie, who he was obsessed with. I didn’t think this was really a “friendship” novel, at least, not the way I thought it would be.

it is a far

The Best of Blogs
I’m catching up on blogs, so if you aren’t here, link in the comments!

Tune in next Monday for: final thoughts and contest winner!

Did you cry at the end?

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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!

#1Tale2CitiesButton

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?

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!

#1Tale2CitiesButton

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.

Continue reading

A Tale of Two Cities Read-Along: Start Reading!

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

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Have you started reading? I’m on page 12, so there’s plenty of time to catch up. As we get down to business, let’s check in on a couple of things:

Editions
Editions abound for a classic like this, that’s been around so long and has been assigned reading for countless students. The ebook selection was overwhelming, so I decided to go old school with the clothbound Penguin Classics. It’s got a nice weight to it, and a built-in bookmark, and lots of introductions, appendices, and notes. It also bit my two-year-old’s thumb today, according to him. Please note that I did comfort him before grabbing the camera.

What edition are you reading?

 

Henry reviews TOTC: "My thumb. Ow. Don't like book."

Henry reviews TOTC: “My thumb. Ow. Don’t like book.”

Read-Alongers (Readers-Along?)
The master post is updated with the list of participants, but I wanted to give some shout-outs today, because there are some awesome bloggers joining us!

  1. Tony: My brother-in-law. Please address any complaints about book choice to him.
  2. Cait at 1227 Miles: My sister. Oh and by the way – Cait and Tony are officially engaged as of this weekend! Congrats!
  3. ebookclassics: I love how CJ digs up the most interesting and random tidbits about books. I also love her celebrities in classics series – let’s say we have similar tastes (90s forever.)
  4. Cedar Station: We recently bonded over our love of The House of Mirth. OMG – Wharton read-along next?
  5. Consumed by Ink: A serious reader of CanLit and big supporter of book blogs – she writes the best comments!
  6. Romanoir: A new-to-me blogger who has a seriously intimidating Classics Club list, heavy on pre-1600 lit.
  7. Amanda’s Weekly Zen: New-to-me blog, but based on the recent post of Wuthering Heights quotes which contained many of my favs, I think we’ll get along juuuust fine.
  8. Doing Dewey: Best blog title and concept I’ve seen in a while. Reading her way through the Dewey decimal system!
  9. Jayne’s Books: Super prolific reader and Moby-Dick read-along alumni.
  10. Reading in Winter: Partly responsible for this blog being what it is today. Yay Kristilyn!
  11. Lost Generation Reader: A celebrity in the classic-lit-bloggers world. Really excited to have her AND her Dickens action figure joining us!

Tales Heard Round the Internet
This is a regular feature with news and notes about A Tale of Two Cities or Mr. Dickens. Today, I found out that the ubiquity of “A Tale of Two Cities” as a catchy title makes it real hard to do a proper Google search. I did manage to find out that The Invisible Woman was released on DVD in Canada last week. This looks like something I need to watch immediately. Psst, CJ, have you done Ralph Fiennes in your Celebrities in Classics yet?

Happy reading, and see you next Monday for our first check-in!

A Tale of Two Cities Read-Along: Master Post

Get ready for the best of times and the worst of times, with the whitest and deadest of Dead White Dudes, Mr. Charles Dickens, and his Tale of Two Cities.

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Why A Tale of Two Cities?
My brother-in-law threw down the challenge. Yes, this is exactly how the Moby-Dick read-along came about. I feel like he really wants to be a book blogger, but doesn’t know how to start. Poor guy. Maybe we’ll convert him this year.

I was less than excited about his choice at first. But then I realized that I don’t know if I’ve ever read Dickens, really. I own some books, but I don’t know if I actually read them, or I just think I did because I’ve seen adaptations, or just know the stories because they’re part of our culture. At 33 years old, I think I should know whether I’ve read any Dickens or not, you know? Time to get serious!

And as much as I support things like #readwomen2014 and reading diverse authors and local authors, sometimes, you gotta hand it to the dead white dudes. I understand this Dickens fellow was pretty good at writing.

I actually have no idea what TOTC is about. But with that opening line, and that title, I’m thinking it’s got to be good. Or at least, make for some good mocking.

What do I have to do?
Nobody has to do anything. But it would be super cool if you did some of the following:

  • Sign up by leaving a comment on this post.
  • Grab the button and put it on your blog.
  • Swing by on Mondays for my weekly recaps.
  • If you are so inclined, post your thoughts on your own blog too.
  • Visit other read-alonger’s blogs. I’ll update the list right here in this post.
  • Tweet your thoughts/frustrations/Simpsons references at #1Tale2Cities

When do we start? (Schedule and links to update posts)

What’s in it for me?
You knew there would be some swag (bribes.)  I’ll randomly choose one participant to win a sweet TOTC shirt from Out of Print Clothing. For some reason, which I’ll assume is sexism, it’s only available in men’s sizes, but, you know, it’s a t-shirt. I think it’ll be okay. Or you can choose a different shirt, whatever.

totcshirt

If you want even MORE Dickens swag, check out this Book Riot post.

Still not convinced?
How about shout outs in both The Simpsons and Clueless?

“It was the best of times, it was the… BLURST of times? Stupid monkey!” in reference to, of course, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

via lesimpsons.tumblr.com

via lesimpsons.tumblr.com

“It’s like that book I read in the 9th grade that said “’tis a far far better thing doing stuff for other people.'” A reference to “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

via clothesonfilm.com

via clothesonfilm.com

How about Emma Donoghue naming Dickens as her favourite author?

That’s all I got for now. Tell me in the comments, why are you excited to read A Tale of Two Cities?

Who’s Reading Along?