A Tale of Two Cities Book Review

Prise de la Bastille (1789) by Jean-Pierre Houël

Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities was the book I chose for the Back to the Classics Challenge “Abandoned Classic” category. I considered plugging in George Eliot’s Middlemarch here because it is another classic I tried to read and gave up on before I had made much progress. Since I was already planning to read Silas Marner for another category, however, I didn’t feel like I needed two Eliot novels on my list. 

A couple of years ago, three perhaps, I had started listening to a Penguin audio version of A Tale of Two Cities. I am not sure if it was simply that I didn’t have the brain power at the time (we were in a stressful life season, and I was still nursing our daughter), or if it was also that the narrator was not great, but I simply could not get into the storyline. I generally had a grasp of the plot, but I only got as far as the trial of Charles Darnay at Bailey’s before I just couldn’t go on and gave up on the book entirely.

This time around, I had a print copy, but I also decided to try listening to different audio version, this time on Librivox. I have to give kudos to reader Paul Adams for his excellent performance. His narration brought out both the drama and the humor of Dickens’ masterful tale. I was especially surprised by the humorous passages and Dickens’ satirical voice in A Tale of Two Cities. I have to admit that aside from being very familiar with A Christmas Carol, I had not read any other Dickens in its entirety up until now. The length of his books generally intimidates me for some reason, as well as the gloom of the Victorian era world he creates. Of course, A Tale of Two Cities is set during the French Revolution, making it even more violent and dark. This aspect of the novel made portions of it hard reading, but Dickens has such a way with words that even the ugliest parts of the story are poetic and compelling to read. 

A Tale of Two Cities is at its core a human story, a story of people at their very best and their very worst, a story of humanity’s struggle to find a higher meaning amidst the bitterness of a sin-cursed world. It is a beautiful, redemptive story. Dickens weaves the plot and characters together in a somewhat surprising and masterful way that brings his tale to a truly satisfying end. Perhaps most unexpected twist of all was the fact that I was actually brought to tears at the last, something I never would have thought possible when reading a Victorian novel. But now that I have read and greatly appreciated the work of Mr. Dickens, you can be sure I will be back for more! The top three Dickens novels I want to read next are David Copperfield, Bleak House and Great Expectations, with Little Dorrit right up there, too!

In the meantime, however, I must move on to something else from my challenge lists. Most of what I’m reading right now is either AmblesideOnline Year 4 pre-reads or non-fiction, so I definitely need to add some fun fiction just for me in there! I think it will be A Room with a View because for quite some time I have been eyeing this E. M. Forster trilogy that is sitting on my shelves, just waiting for the perfect moment to jump in!

That’s all for now. I will be back soon with another review because my son and I are almost finished reading By the Shores of Silver Lake together. Until then, I’d love for you to pop into the comments and tell me what you are reading!

Another Reading Challenge? Or, My Scholé Sisters 5×5 Challenge Picks

Call me crazy, but I have one more reading challenge to share with you for this year! The Scholé Sisters created the “5×5 Challenge” for 2020, and I decided to give it a go in addition to the Back to the Classics and 20 for 2020 Reading Challenges. The goal of the 5×5 list is to read both widely and deeply, so you choose 5 different topics/genres and 5 books in each of those areas. I am not quite as positive about completing this one as it is a bit more of a stretch due to the topics I chose. But I think even if I don’t finish all the titles, I will have made some good progress in self-education that I have been neglecting. Another part of the Scholé Sisters’ 5×5 Challenge is to read from your shelves or to reread books. So, I’ve noted with an asterisk which titles I have on my physical shelves or on Kindle. The only re-read is Til We Have Faces! Here are my choices so far:

Mathematics

    1. Here’s Looking at Euclid by Alex Bellos
    2. A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley
    3. The Joy of X by Steven Strogatz
    4. Math with Bad Drawings by Ben Orlin
    5. ? (Maybe something more about teaching math, but I’m not sure what.)

Biography/Memoire

    1. Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser*
    2. An American Princess by Annette van der Zijl*
    3. Ocean of Truth by Joyce McPherson*
    4. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano*
    5. Night by Elie Wiesel*

Theology/Christianity

    1. The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer*
    2. In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen*
    3. Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman*
    4. Knowing God by J. I. Packer* 
    5. Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton*

Health/Wellness

    1. The Wellness Revelation by Alisa Keeton*
    2. Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman
    3. The Mind-Gut Connection by Emeran Mayer
    4. The Complete Homeopathy Handbook by Miranda Castro*
    5. ? (Possibly something about Swedish Drill or other exercise handbook for children.)

Literary Fiction

    1. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster*
    2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens*
    3. Silas Marner by George Eliot*
    4. The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde
    5. Til We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis*

Yes, I still have a few blanks to fill in. I plan to fill those in with books referenced in the other texts in those areas. Or I may find some titles via Goodreads or someone else’s recommendation in the Scholé Sisters membership discussions. I guess we will just see where the spirit leads! Also, I’m curious…if you were to choose 5 topic areas from which to read in the coming year, what would they be? I’d love to get your responses in the comments! 

Joining the 2020 Back to the Classics Challenge

Hello again, dear readers! I’m back with another post about yet another book challenge! Am I in need of an intervention? Haha, maybe! But I don’t care. Bring on the books!

Last year I didn’t participate in the Back to the Classics Challenge hosted by Karen at Books and Chocolate like I had in 2018. This year I wasn’t even sure if she was going to host again. It certainly must be a great deal of work to follow up on all the entries at the end of the year. But I checked, and sure enough, she is back at it again! This year’s categories looked like they would fit nicely with the other challenges I am doing. So I decided to dive in! Here are my choices. (You may notice some overlap from my 20 for 2020 challenge list, and that was entirely intentional!)

Back to the Classics 

Last year my reading was all over the place, and sometimes I felt like it was just too scattered for my liking. So having a few reading lists to keep me on track has already been really helpful. Of course, with the Back to the Classics Challenge the other part of the challenge is to keep up with writing the reviews! So I will have to actually come here and write now and then as I finish each book. I sure hope I can keep that going, too! Until next time…

The Literary Life 20 for 2020 Reading Challenge: My Book Picks

The lovely ladies on The Literary Life Podcast are hosting a reading challenge this year, and, of course, I had to join in! Yes, I joined partly because I love them (and work with them and got the list early), but mostly it was because the categories on this list are simply amazing! One of my other book goals this year is to read more from my shelves here at home. In light of that, I tried to plug in as many titles that I own as I could. But every category has one or more runners up that I might end up reading instead/also. All titles with an asterisk are books I own either in print or on Kindle. 

Aren’t these categories great? I mean, this list could go in so many different directions. It has been fun to look at other people’s lists on Instagram and Facebook, at least in the rare moments I have allowed myself to scroll social media. Some of these areas will be more out of my usual reading pattern than others, especially poetry and essays. I decided the best way to tackle these two categories was to add a page of poetry and an essay a day to my afternoon reading time. Enjoying a cup of hot tea with Emily Dickinson and Sir Frances Bacon is, admittedly, a pretty great way to spend a few minutes each afternoon! 

What, if any, reading challenges are you participating in this coming year? I’d love to hear all about it!

The Reading Report, Vol. 19: What Happened to February?

I know a lot of people are glad that February is the shortest month in the year. And I am probably usually one of them. But this year, somehow, February flew by without giving me time to do all the things I wanted to do! It seems like this school year has been extra busy. Or maybe I just have been lacking in my time management skills? Maybe it is a little of both. Either way, I know there is one thing I did a lot of in February: reading. Actually, now that I think of it, maybe that is a bigger part of my problem in the time management department than I would like to admit? Well, let’s not worry about that right now. Let’s just talk about the books I read, because that is way more fun than thinking about all the other things I possibly could/should have been doing instead! Ha!

What I finished reading…

I actually completed so many books last month that I had to consult my Goodreads list because I could not possibly remember them all! So, in no particular order at all, here are the books I read in February, along with star ratings (because you do not want to spend the time to read what I thought of them all, I know!)

Three Men In a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome * * * *

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck * * * * *

Paddington Abroad by Michael Bond * * * *

10 Books that Screwed Up the World by Benjamin Wiker * * * *

Better Together by Pam Barnhill * * * *

Once on a Time by A. A. Milne * * * * *

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather * * * * *

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare * * * * *

My top two favorite books so far this year have been The Good Earth and O Pioneers!, which is interesting since they both have themes that tie into the land, prosperity and family. Both books gave me so much to think about, which is what great fiction does so well!

What I’m reading now…

I am trying to dial back my personal reading a wee bit so that I can focus on pre-reading a little more. (I’m still behind where I would like to be with that!) But I am also trying to keep one for fun novel going, along with a non-fiction book and a devotional book. For my devotional book, I am still slowing reading The Spiritual Life by Andrew Murray. It is SO good! I have really found some life-changing insights in this very scripturally sound little book. Reading a couple of pages a day is just perfect for pacing, too.

For my current non-fiction, I’m actually trying to read Gladys Hunt’s Honey for a Child’s Heart, instead of just mining the bibliography in the back for books to put on hold at the library. It’s not new information, but it is inspiring to read, nonetheless! I finished The Spy Who Came in from the Cold on March 1, so my new novel is some old kid-lit. We borrowed a picture book retelling of Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field from the library a while back, and it made me very curious about the original. So I am reading and enjoying that one now.

New on my TBR list…

When I am finished with The Spiritual Life, I am seriously considering reading a brand new book by Rachel Jankovic called You Who: Why You Matter and How to Deal with It. I have heard a lot of excellent feedback about this book from people I trust, as well as read a few sample pages which lead me to believe this is an important book addressing our current Christian culture. I will let you know what I think when I get it and start reading!

Until next time…happy reading, friends!