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Charles Dickens's classic of the French Revolution is expertly dramatized by Simon Vance. It's also a grand romance. Charles Darnay, the French émigré who relinquishes his title in disgust at the poverty wrought upon the peasants by the titled class, and Sydney Carton, the world-weary drunken London barrister, both love Lucie, the daughter of the unjustly imprisoned Dr. Alexandre Manette. Vance will have listeners weeping as Carton greets Madame Guillotine with some of the most famous lines in literature. Carton's depression and ultimate redemption are crystal clear; Madame Defarge, with her clicking knitting needles, takes on appropriate menace; and Jarvis Lorry, the reliable "man of business," loves Lucie as if she were his daughter.
This novel provides a highly charged examination of human suffering and human sacrifice, private experience and public history, during the French Revolution.
A Tale of Two Cities is one of Charles Dickens's most exciting novels. Set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, it tells the story of a family threatened by the terrible events of the past. Doctor Manette was wrongly imprisoned in the Bastille for 18 years without trial by the aristocratic authorities. Finally released, he is reunited with his daughter, Lucie, who despite her French ancestry has been brought up in London. Lucie falls in love with Charles Darnay, another expatriate, who has abandoned wealth and a title in France because of his political convictions. When revolution breaks out in Paris, Darnay returns to the city to help an old family servant, but there he is arrested because of the crimes committed by his relations. His wife, Lucie, their young daughter, and her aged father follow him across the channel, thus putting all their lives in danger.
"A Tale of Two Cities" is the best selling book of all time and Charles Dickens is easily one of the world's most iconic writers. Add the great narration that we've come to expect from Simon Vance and you have an Audible Classic that one will thoroughly enjoy.
Charles Dickens did a great job when he wrote this book and the sales of book over time does tell you why. This is one of those timeless classics that you can't help but enjoy. The pace of the book itself languishes a bit and will not be appreciated by everyone. The slower pace however is used with good effect as it is used to set up the book pretty well. If you're a fan of good imagery, it is painted very well in these 'slow' moments. When the pace does pick up however, it picks up fast and extremely well with a lot of exciting action.
The novel talks about the plight of the French commons brought upon by the French ruling class, the subsequent revolution and then the often times senseless revenge the French commons take on the former French ruling class. Parallel to this is also mentioned life in London during the same period. It follows the lives of several protagonists through these events.
Simon Vance does a very great job bringing life to the story. I found myself enjoying his narration quite well. This book had a relatively large cast and and the way he was able to bring life to each individual character is impressive to say the least.
58 of 60 people found this review helpful
tale of 2 cities is tale of 2 cities. it's a landmark novel. it's my favorite Dickens. and this is the best of the versions. i have several versions and this is the one.
it is Simon Vance that makes the difference. he's perfect in this narration. he's better than any other. perfect articulation. perfect cadence. perfect tone. perfect meter. a perfect version.
in fact, i believe, this is one of the best of the audiobooks on audible. i have listened to this one over and over. maybe i've put it on a dozen times. why? this reading is poetry of sound and story. this is a pleasure to hear.
i hope you enjoy it.
* Mick Jagger
49 of 51 people found this review helpful
I am a fairly well-read person, yet I'd managed to miss this cornerstone work for my entire life. I am very glad that I encountered it in the voice of Simon Vance. He is a superb reader, with a fine sense of timing and drama. I was riveted by the story and (I admit it) I wept at the end, sobbed like a baby. Maybe it was good that I waited so long to get to this great book!
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to A Tale of Two Cities [Tantor] again? Why?
Yes, I would. There were some parts that I had a hard time understanding, so I would rewind and listen again. This was my first experience with Dickens (besides A Christmas Carol) and it was beyond enjoyable. I believe that I'll revisit this book in the future not only for another listen but to read it as well.
What other book might you compare A Tale of Two Cities [Tantor] to and why?
I'm not sure what else to compare it to! It was a fantastic story of courage, wrong-doing, sacrifice, hardship and love
What does Simon Vance bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
He did a fantastic job with the narration. I wouldn't have been able to pronounce all of the French names and words so it was really nice hearing him say them. It was very smooth.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
There were a couple of times where I found myself chuckling and I never cried but I definitely felt some sorrow for the characters.
Any additional comments?
This was a fantastic book and I would say that I'm officially a fan of Dickens. I'll definitely be revisiting A Tale of Two Cities and his other works as well. I would definitely give this book a chance.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
I seldom re-read or re-listen to novels. Rarely do I find a novel where the gravity of the writing makes me NEED to return to it again and again. There are, however, exceptions to every rule and Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities is definititely an exception. This is a top-tier novel narrated by a top-tier narrator. LIke Tolstoy and Hugo, Dickens is able to mix a story that is epic in historical scale, while also keeping it an intimate book. Dickens examines the challenges, both personal and political, that emerge out of the struggle between subject and state. This is a beautiful story beautifully told.
47 of 51 people found this review helpful
What disappointed you about A Tale of Two Cities?
Not disappointed at all in any way. Once this is your type of title, you will enjoy.
What was one of the most memorable moments of A Tale of Two Cities?
The opening description. I am a fan of good, simple poetry.
What didn’t you like about Simon Vance’s performance?
Excellent! In my book of favorite narrator's (up there with Roy Dotrice - Game of Thrones Series).
What character would you cut from A Tale of Two Cities?
Hmm, objectively, none. Each tale has its own set of characters and character development, which contributes to a whole. At least from my limited POV.
Any additional comments?
Wish the book was longer! Reading and listening was an awesome experience with this title!
26 of 28 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up A Tale of Two Cities in three words, what would they be?
Grim historical time. I'm past the half-century mark and read this in high school...didn't remember it at all except that I didn't do so well on my book report! I am living in Paris for a few years so I have been trying to listen to some European classics. I just didn't realize/appreciate the gravity of the French Revolution until I came to live here. As an American, I just don't have much appreciation for world history...I'm getting some! The opening lines of this novel are iconic...they are familiar even to me...if I was a contestant on Jeopardy I would not have put Dicken's poetry with this tale...I feel so much better prepared now for any future contests. The narration is outstanding. I tend to favor male narrators as I find very few women's voices do justice to male roles, and this novel is dominated by male characters. As with the few books I have read placed in this time period, it is a tale full of extreme sadness...at times...hopelessness. To my limited view, it captures the terror of the French revolution all too well. If time travel becomes possible at some point, avoid Paris during the French revolution because no one was safe from Madame Guillotine.Dickens is able to take a sad storyline and somewhat give us a happy ending. If you are a fan of Dickens, this is definitely a story you will want to hear as he takes this time in history and creates a timeless tale.
23 of 25 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
I would definitely recommend. I tried reading this book in middle school, but couldn't get through the beginning boringness. The audiobook version was perfect for me because I was sitting in traffic commuting anyway and didn't have anything else to do besides listen to this book, so I got through the beginning build up. Once the second part started I couldn't stop listening.
What did you like best about this story?
I love how the beginning of the book starts a lot of different tangents which come together toward the middle and end of the book. Its ingenious.
Which scene was your favorite?
I loved the storming of the bastille. I also loved the ending scene of course with Sydney Carton being carted away. His soliloquy is awesome.
Any additional comments?
It's no wonder that this book is a classic. If you've never listened to it, do it! Persevere through the beginning and you will start to love it. Even the language which at first is dull and off-putting becomes complex and beautiful as you become accustomed to it. <br/>Also, Simon Vance does a great job narrating. His voices are fantastic - especially his voice of Mrs. Pross. It cracks me up.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
My wife and I used to rent a house every autumn on different islands off the coast of Maine. In one we found a cache of old paperbacks: romances, thrillers and historical novels. Opening one of the latter at random, a story set in America in the 1850s, I read a line of dialogue that went something like this:
“If these Abolitionists don’t stop their agitation, we’re going to have a civil war!”
It was a fine example of reading history backwards, seeing events as inevitable just because you know they actually happened. It’s why I tell our kids to never get their sense of the past from movies. Or historical novels.
Since here we’re dealing with Charles Dickens and not John Jakes (or whoever it was) the reading backwards is more nuanced. Still, I don’t think I’m overstating much when I suggest that every single preconception, misconception and cliché about the French Revolution springs from this novel.
As an antidote to Dickens’ grass-eating peasants, self-besotted aristocrats and Mysteries-of-Udolfo-like Bastille, please read Simon Shama’s excellent book, Citizens. Yes, I know Dickens wasn’t writing history. The problem is, too many people have taken what he wrote as history—or, even worse, skipped his novel altogether and simply ingested the clichés borrowed from the novel for movies, mini-series and other lesser novels. This is not to say that there was no oppression or injustice in Ancien Regime France; it’s just to suggest that the real story is far more nuanced and interesting.
That said, the story is undeniably breathtaking. The first two books carefully set up the third; by the time you get there, the story has become a roller coaster of danger, intrigue and double-dealing, all plausible and terrifying because the personalities and past history have all been so patiently prepared in the first two books. I do think Dickens goes one step too far in making Madame Defarge a direct relation of the family oppressed by…but now I’m giving more away than I should. You decide.
Dickens was able to be tender, funny and admonitory by turns and, it sometimes seems, all at once. He is simply a master craftsman of our language; the story rolls along effortlessly on the tide of his wit and humanity. Yes, there are those details that delighted his original audience and now make us wince. The death of the heroine’s young son, part of a telescoped series of events Dickens employs to get us to where the French Revolution begins, is the kind of thing that made an easy target for P. G. Wodehouse. And deservedly so. But it is no more than a speed bump on an otherwise satisfying journey.
A larger reservation: Dickens knew Englishmen through and through, from the highest to the lowest. At least, he writes as if he did. The “honest tradesman” is vintage Dickens, the kind of character any actor would love to get his teeth into. But his Frenchmen come off, by and large, as just a tad ersatz. A little cardboard-y. And the disease is common to his Jacobins and much as his Aristos. My guess—and it’s only a guess—is that he was stepping off his home ground (not just leaving England but also his own century) and trying to create characters from the facts he found in history books. Certainly his peasants are pathetic, but they aren’t really human in the way Pip or Scrooge are or, in Tale of Two Cities, that wonderful "man of business", Mr. Lorry.
Still, this is a 5-star listen all-round for the characters that are realized and the story they share—and for the flawless performance by the always-enjoyable Simon Vance. It feels good to get another classic under my belt, one I have been ignoring for decades. Especially as now I understand what Bertie Wooster means when he refers to “a touch of the Sydney Carton spirit”.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to A Tale of Two Cities the most enjoyable?
I cannot pronounce the French names and places, so hearing them made it come alive. I have tried to read the classic a couple of times, and got bogged down in the beginning with "all those descriptive words"! Hearing it made it so much more interesting!
Who was your favorite character and why?
Cotton - love and faithfulness; Barnay - a hero.
Have you listened to any of Simon Vance’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
I have not.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
I could not listen in one sitting! I had to put it down and read a book...then I went back to it and was thrilled that I did. I did not expect the ending!
Any additional comments?
I had just finished Les Mis, so here I was back in the French Revolution - at the wine shop - different time period! Now I know why it is a classic. I have learned much about life in Paris!
13 of 14 people found this review helpful
If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?
I read as it's a classic on the 1001 books to read before you die lists. <br/><br/>After great expectations, I simply didn't enjoy as much. It's a love story of sorts and it simply wasn't for me. I was expecting a grittier French Revolution story.
Has A Tale of Two Cities [Tantor] put you off other books in this genre?
Absolutely not. But nobody can enjoy all of the classics.
What about Simon Vance’s performance did you like?
a great tale told beautifully by a wonderful writer in the voice of a great and very versatile actor. The characterisations are very vivid and the era and people come to life, rather than being an old tale told in an antiquated and wordy manner. l enjoyed it immensely.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful