Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Tale of Two Cities Read-along Check-in # 1

This is my first reading of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, and my third Dickens' title ever.  I absolutely love Dickens.  He is one of my favorite authors, and this book is fast confirming that, as well.

I am ahead of the reading schedule, but I must check-in with the first third of the story as requested. With all Dickens' novels, one should act like a Sherlock Holmes and take lots of notes.  Mine are entirely full of holes!  Some of my notes are incorrect and incomplete.  That is because I was confused about what was happening and who was doing what.  That's me! A little slow on the take-off. However, it is all coming together nicely because that is what happens in a Dickens' novel.

Have you noticed how every character has an essential place in the story?  No character goes away unimportant.  If Dickens mentions him or her, write that name down quick because somewhere in the future it will be resurrected.  And pay close attention to small behaviors and comments because they, too, will have a place later.  Dickens leaves nothing wasted. Everything has a purpose.

One third of the way through I was still a little unsure of everything that was happening and how I felt about certain characters, such as Carton and his role.  But I was still engaged and curious to know more.

So, just for the heck of it, here are my sparse notes per chapter, which reflect my lack of comprehension of the story.  I also underline in my book a lot, and often add comments, stars, and smiley faces in the margins, which are missing from these notes.

Book 1
Chapter 1  
England/France 1775 contradicting attitudes

Chapter 2
Mr. Jarvis Lorry receives msg: wait @ Dover for Mam'sette.
His reply: "Recalled to Life."

Chapter 3
Every human has a secret.  Lorry is going to "dig" up someone who has been dead 18 years.

Chapter 4
Miss Manette meets w/ Mr. Lorry regarding property of her "dead" father whom she has never met.
Found father alive.  They are going to meet him in France.

Chapter 5 Paris
Wine spilled (foreshadow of blood spilled).  Something dreadful is coming.
Ms. Manette meets her father - a shoemaker.

Chapter 6
Ms. Manette prepares to take her father to England.

Book 2 
Chapter 1 1780
Five years later.  Tellson's bank.  Sounds like a crappy place of business.
Mr. Crucher and 12-year old son work @ bank.

Chapter 2
Mr. Lorry @ court.  Jerry is there to serve as a messenger.
25-year old man, prisoner, Charles Darnay on trial for treason for divulging secrets to King of France about English plans to fight American colonist.  (not correct???)

Chapter 3
Prisoner acquitted!

Chapter 4
Mr. Darnay leaves court w/ Mr. Carton, who does not like Darnay.  Thinks they are similar.

Chapter 5
Mr. Carton (jackal) is a miserable drunk who helps Mr. Stryver (lion).  Pretends he does not care for Lucie Manette.

Chapter 6  4 months later
Mr. Lorry visits the Manette's.  Wonders why Mr. Manette leaves reminders of his sufferings about.
Ms. Pross, housemaid, thinks Lucie should have married her brother, Solomon, but he's a sketchy character.
Mr. Manette does not speak of his past.
Mr. Darnay visits Manette and Lucie; Carton joins them. ???
Darnay talks about a msg left in a cell @ Tower "Dig" ???
Mr. Manette falls ill.  The convo ends.
The sound of the crowd cause Lucie to think of the people who will enter their lives.

Chapter 7  Paris
Marquis Evernonde is a snob. Wants all power to himself.  His carriage runs over a child, then throws money to appease his poor father.  Wineshop owner, Defarge, return coins.

Chapter 8
Marquis serves as lord to a village of poor people.  He is waiting for Monsieur Charles, his nephew.
At the Marquis home - everything made of stone - like his heart.

Chapter 9
Charles Darnay is Monsieur Charles, the Marquis' nephew!
The uncle and nephew are in disagreement of how they have treated others wrongly.  Darnay renounces his own title and position b/c his family name is connect to fear and slavery.
That night, someone murders the Marquis - Jacques.


  1. Thanks for the example of the notes you take, Ruth. Mine tend to be too long. Sometimes I combine chapters to counteract this issue. It was very problematic when I read Don Quixote but somehow I made it through. :-Z

    I'd love to hear sometime what you like about Dickens. I'm trying to like him ……… well, I would say that I like him but I don't love him. I've only read about 4 of his novels yet though, so I'm keeping an open mind.

    1. One thing Susan Wise Bauer suggests for note taking is writing one to two sentences about the most important event that takes place in each chapter, not that these sentences in my post demonstrate good examples. I have also combined chapters, too.

      When I finish this novel, I will write up something about Dickens to explain why I like him.

  2. I was so confused reading this but by the end everything comes together! Relax

  3. This is so helpful! I'm not usually a massive note taker when I read (reminds me too much of uni) but I have found myself getting lost reading this. I'm back on track now but for the remainder of the book, I'm having my notepad and pen with me at all times.

    Dickens is just ridiculously skilled at weaving a story so all the separate points come together. Enjoy the rest of the book.

    1. Ellie, I am a terrible notetaker, and I tend to scribble in my book in the margins. But it helps when I go back through the book and find little notes on the page that lead me to the passage that I may need to reread and figure out in better detail. It really does help.

  4. It's been simply years since I read this -- I think I'll try to reread it next year! Once I finish all the Sherlock Holmes stories. I remember loving it a lot, but so much of it has faded from my memory.

    1. A Tale of Two Cities is one book that is definitely worthy of a reread.