A Tale of Two Readings

So, life got really busy and messy and exciting and fun the last few weeks, which is why I haven’t been writing (or reading) as much. But I’m back and I have a punny blog title and I’ve got stuff to say. Let’s do this!

This was my second time reading A Tale of Two Cities and the biggest thing I noticed was how much easier the book was to read this time around. As a junior in college, I remember that it took me FOREVER to read one chapter. The sentences were dense and sometimes they were long and they were packed with imagery. This time, I was much better able to understand what the words were saying, so it gave me way more time to enjoy the beautiful writing. The same thing happened last year when I read 1984 for the first time since I was sixteen.

The thing is, Dickens DOES write beautifully. I forgot that when I read Hard Times. But in A Tale of Two Cities, he strikes a really good balance between narration and commentary. The imagery is SO good. And I love, love, LOVE how he gets other senses involved in the narrative. You can HEAR the tumbrils rumbling over the cobbled streets. Many times, I could TASTE the wine spilled in the streets or being drunk in the Defarges’ shop. I was really, really IN the story.

Also, practically none of the really beautiful bits seem over-written or melodramatic. Instead, they just make you stop and think before you read it again and smile.

For example:

“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it! Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable to this. No more can I turn the leaves of this dear book that I loved, and vainly hope in time to read it all. no more can I look into the depths of this unfathomable water, wherein, as momentary lights glanced into it, I have had glimpses of buried treasure and other things submurged. It was appointed that the book should shut with a spring, forever and ever, when I had read but a page. It was appointed that the water should be locked in an eternal frost, when the light was playing on its surface, and I stood in ignorance on the shore. My friend is dead, my neighbour is dead, my love, the darling of my soul, is dead; it is inexorable consolidation and perpetuation of the secret that was always in that individuality, and which I shall carry in mine to my life’s end. In any of the burial-places of this city through which I pass, is there a sleeper more inscrutable than its busy inhabitants are, in their innermost personality, to me, or than I am to them?”

It’s just…MAN, that’s just the most beautiful thing. “It was appointed that the book should shut with a spring, forever and ever, when I had read but a page.” Just…can we just take a minute to appreciate how WELL Dickens writes?

I’m sure that, at sixteen, I struggled to even understand what he was saying in this passage. There is certainly no way that, at that age, it made me stop and read it over and over again, thinking about what it means in terms of human relations and individuality and connections. But this time I did.

We can never know anybody fully, not even the people we love the most. Even when we try to get close to them, start to get to know them, or even THINK we know them, we don’t fully. And then they die. We all die, never really knowing anybody and with nobody really knowing us. But Dickens uses such great words to say that that it doesn’t seem wholly depressing or crushing.

Just wonderful.

I guess the moral of the story is you should reread the books you read when you were younger.

Rating: *****
Up Next: Trainspotting
(which I’ve already finished. Someday I’ll be caught up on blogging. Someday.)



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: