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Publisher's Summary

Exclusively from Audible

'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times'; so the recording begins and ends with some of Dickens' best-known words, and between those lines is every Briton's view of the worst excesses of the French Revolution.

Set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution, the audiobook tells the story of a French doctor who is imprisoned for 18 years in the Bastille in Paris. Upon his release, he moves to London with his daughter, Lucie, whom he had never met. She marries but there is conflict between her husband and the people who decades earlier caused her father's imprisonment.

Set against the backdrop of the conditions that led up to the French Revolution, it depicts the plight of the French peasantry demoralised by the French aristocracy and the brutality demonstrated by the revolutionaries during the Reign of Terror, towards the former aristocrats.

Dickens was one of eight children from a very poor family, with his father eventually being sent to debtor's prison. Dickens began work at the age of 12 to help clear the family debt. It was this troublesome childhood that provided him with much of the material for his novels and lent him a sympathetic voice for the poor.

Narrator Biography

Martin Jarvis is one of Britain's most admired actors. His audiobook output is legendary. He is described in Vanity Fair as 'the Olivier of audiobooks' and 'genius of the Spoken Word' in the LA Times. Award-winning recordings range from titles by Charles Dickens, P.G. Wodehouse and Michael Frayn to thrillers by Jeffrey Archer, Wilbur Smith, Ian Fleming and Dick Francis.

He has starred in many acclaimed West End and National Theatre productions and received the Theatre World Award as Jeeves on Broadway. Numerous UK television appearances encompass Law & Order, Doctor Who, Endeavour, Inspector Morse and The Forsyte Saga. In America: Murder She Wrote, Numb3rs, Cosmos and Walker, Texas Ranger. Films include Titanic, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Wreck-It Ralph. Videogames: Alfred in Batman, Finn McMissile in Cars. Martin was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

Public Domain (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
  • Kenneth
  • Cary, NC, United States
  • 07-14-11

My favorite Dickens yet

While it took a while to get going, once it did, it was enthralling. As usual, Dickens does an amazing job with the characters. They are so real you have no problem imagining them in your minds-eye. Narrator was amazing as well. Highly recommend this one.

  • Overall

A book most wonderful

Fantastic, wonderful, marvelous, I cannot say onebad thing about a Tale of Two Cities. Honestly, I really did not want to listen to this book. I thought it would be boring. The only reason I did is because I am trying to reeducate myself by reading the classics. It was one of the best books I have ever read. It gave me the chills. True heros from a horrific time in history. Amazing!

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A great historical Dickens tale

Dickens crafts larger-than-life characters whose defining personality traits and conversational tics carry them strongly through the story, and his depiction of France before and during the Revolution is as vivid and bloody as the Terror, despite his exercising all the expected Victorian restraint when it comes to actually describing bloodshed. He also contrasts Paris with London, and not always in London's favor; Dickens was a marvelous social critic of his time, and with understated clarity he shows the reader how, while the British aristocracy was no longer trampling peasants beneath their horses' feet with impunity, the English court system was hardly more just or less rapacious and corrupt than the French.

The story itself is typically Dickensian in that it is full of memorable characters who are all brought onstage separately and then brought together by a tightening web of plot threads that ends up tying everyone together one way or another. Once Dickens introduces a character, he means to use that character until the very end, and will use any improbable plot device to make sure everyone is where he wants them to be. So of course the spy who is known to the Defarges is the very same man whom Sydney Carton saw tried years earlier in London; of course the nephew of the Marquis who imprisoned Doctor Manette (who once employed Monsieur Defarge) is the very same man who flees France and marries his daughter; of course Sydney Carton and Jerry Cruncher just happen to be in Paris on business (with the "man of business" Mr. Lorry) when Charles Darnay goes there, etc. And there is the most improbable plot device at all, telegraphed at the beginning of the book when Carton faces Darnay during that London trial. But it all works to create a tense and very enjoyable novel.

Definitely a favorite, and one I should have read earlier. Martin Jarvis's narration is great and perfectly British, though a bit "squeaky" with some of the female characters.

  • Overall
  • Matt
  • OVERLAND PARK, KS, United States
  • 01-29-11

Classic for a Reason!

I have decided to go back and read many of the "classics" that I never got around to. This is my second Dickens book (Great Expectations) and neither of them has disappointed. The depth of the characters in this book is amazing and his accounts of post revolution France were also very enlightening. Martin Jarvis is a superb narrator; the range of his character voices makes it very hard to imagine that it is only one man reading this book. Dickens and Jarvis make a great team-- tremendous tremendous audiobook.

  • Overall

Jarvis is very fine

No one can touch Patrick Tull when it comes to reading Dickens--if you haven't downloaded his version of The Pickwick Papers do it instantly! Having finished the latter I was up for another but was disappointed to find there is only the one Dickens read by him in Audible. Jarvis is not as revelatory as Tull but he is definitely the next best thing. The novel itself is a bit of a tough haul, not only because the subject matter is quite grim but also b/c Dickens is at times experimenting with prose techniques that can be a little hard to follow in the audio format. But it will live with you. Highly recommended.

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  • Cathrine
  • Phoenix, AZ, United States
  • 08-31-10

Wonderful narration

Although Dickens' words are extraordinary, this book was made even more enjoyable to me because it was read so well and brilliantly by the amazing, Martin Jarvis. Every character was brought to life; every word so well articulated. A true classic novel. Make your children listen to it.

  • Overall
  • Anna
  • Holly Springs, NC, USA
  • 08-21-09

A classic

Well, I can't say I found this book as easy to follow, as humorous, or the characters as enchanting as the same narrator's performance of "David Copperfield," but I certainly am glad I listened. Dickens' mastery of the English language is equally abundant and skillful here. There were certain descriptions that simply left me breathless, such as the scene describing the storming of the Bastille. This has been described as Dickens's most serious work, and rightfully so. A good portion of the characters may not be as dynamic as I would have liked, but the themes of oppressors vs. the oppressed, life and death, and redemption are powerfully illustrated and thoughtfully conveyed. I found the ending particularly moving.
As to the narration, once again, Martin Jarvis has spoilt me on hearing anyone else perform Dickens. His range of character voices seems endless; I sometimes have to remind myself that it's only him speaking. I'll simply have to read the Dickens that he hasn't narrated; I refuse to listen to anyone else.

  • Overall
  • Jonnie
  • Panama City, FL, United States
  • 03-08-09

I love the French Revolution...go Dickens

This is a classic. Good character and plot development.

  • Overall

Excellent

I loved this book in high school and it's just as good today. The narration was excellent and Dicken's was, as usual, excellent as well.

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  • Yokel D
  • 07-18-16

Another great performance by Martin Jarvis

Martin Jarvis excels in his narration of this Dickens classic, in particular during the second book as the pace gathers. A fabulous tale of political intrigue, social upheaval and heroic sacrifice.

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  • Annick
  • 07-12-16

Dickens through Jarvis

Martin Jarvis is a master in conveying the authentic voice and thus the many voices that comprise the work of Charles Dickens. It is eerily mesmerizing how he draws you close enough to Dickens' world that you can feel the heavy fog that shrouds a London long past. In a word Martin Jarvis , I think you are 'capital ' !

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  • Brendan
  • 07-02-16

very interesting and love the language

although it was long it kept me wanting to listen to more. it gave me insight into the times of the French revolution.

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  • ms
  • 06-25-16

Extraordinarily brilliant

I am now a Dickens fan , I struggled in the beginning to enjoy the story or understand the full meaning as Dickens prose is so rich and the language complicated in parts . However I persevered , re listened and repeated until I got the flow and can honestly say it's one of the most brilliant stories I have listened to . I now have a much deeper understanding of the French Revolution . I loved it .

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  • Mathew
  • 06-08-16

Not the best of times for me I'm afraid.

If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

I have really tried to listen to this book several times over eight years. I was a big fan of the Dickens I read at school and hoped to understand this book more. Unfortunately the start is just so slow it would need a listener with a great deal of patience to get through the first couple of hours.

Would you ever listen to anything by Charles Dickens again?

Yes, although I am not going to until I've successfully completed this book.

What three words best describe Martin Jarvis’s performance?

Excellent soothing voice

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from A Tale of Two Cities?

The road to Paris. This seems a long way to add a small amount of backstory and not a lot happens.

Any additional comments?

The book is obviously a classic and Martin Jarvis is an excellent narrator, I am looking forward to completing the book one day and my opinion will probably be different then. For now though I cannot rate this higher.

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  • Tweedledum
  • 06-02-16

Recalled to life

Martin Jarvis reads Dickens heart-rending historical novel of revolutionary France magnificently. I read the book long ago and its impact on me then was such that I doubted if I could bear to read it again. But the narration has been so compelling that I had to put aside everything else to see it through.

Thoroughly recommend this recording.

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  • Kier Home
  • 05-26-16

A fantastic classic.

I loved it. Powerful, emotional and breathtaking in its scope. A truly fantastic story with characters you care about.

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  • John
  • 04-16-16

Just brilliant

My first Dickens and it didn't disappoint. So much to say about its merits but aside from Dickens genius I applaud the narrator (Jarvis): beautiful rich voice which a wealth of magnificent characters wonderfully portrayed.

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  • Paul Archer
  • 12-31-15

Always a great read

What made the experience of listening to A Tale of Two Cities the most enjoyable?

I love Dickens, the way he describes detail, so easy for me to build a picture in my mind, Martin Jarvis does a excellent job too.

What about Martin Jarvis’s performance did you like?

The fact that he able to voice so many of the characters, it was as if each had a different actor !

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  • Ashleigh M
  • 12-01-15

Story Not for Me.

The narration of this was great but, for me, the story wasn't. Of the Dickens I've read, this is my least favourite and honestly if it had been my first Dickens I'm not sure I'd have read more of his work. The opening paragraph is possibly one of the best in literature but, sadly, the novel as a whole didn't live up to that for me!

It's a personal thing, and I'd implore that everyone give Dickens a go! This audiobook was great, just the story didn't do it for me!