This book does not need a review, as it is a Classic! Yet I would like to share my views on this beautifully written story by Dickens that concentrates on the life of the people of Paris and London during the French aristocratic reins leading to the revolution.
It was the best-selling novels of all time and its popularity has remained steady ever since, as one of the best-loved works of Charles Dickens.
The book is divided into three parts and I would like to reel off a very short summary of it:
Book 1 (Recalled To Life) -
“Recalled To Life” is a coded message given by a train passenger, Mr. Lorry to Lucie, daughter of Dr. Manette to let her know that her father is alive and has been released from Bastille (French Prison). Lorry takes her to her father, who is unable to recognize her but eventually does. She starts to take care of her father and bring him back to London.
During a trial in the British court, a French immigrant named Charles Darnay is tried for treason against the British Royal Crown, but the key witnesses fail to testify against him because Darnay’s attorney presents a doppelganger of Darnay in the court, Sydney Carton, due to which the testimony against him is discredited and he gets exonerated.
While in Paris, Darnay’s uncle, a much-hated aristocrat, Marquis St. Evrémonde accidently kills a peasant’s child by ordering his driver to recklessly drive his carriage and abuses the peasant by throwing a coin as a compensation towards him. However, the Marquis gets killed in his sleep by the same peasant.
In London, Darnay and Carton both fall in love with Lucie. However, Darnay gets to marry her. On the morning of the marriage, Darnay reveals his real name and family lineage (Relation to the Aristocratic Evrémonde’s family) to Dr. Manette, for whom this is an extremely shocking news, for reasons he does not reveal to his daughter.
After few years, when Lucie and Darnay are happily settled and raising a daughter in London, the storming of Bastille takes place in Paris and throughout the countryside, local officials and other representatives of the aristocracy are dragged from their homes to be killed. Darnay finds a letter from his uncle's servants who has been imprisoned by the revolutionaries, pleading for the Marquis to help secure his release. Without telling his family or revealing his position as the new Marquis, Darnay sets out for Paris.
In Paris, Darnay gets arrested for being a French Aristrocrat.
After few years, Darnay is tried in the presence of his family, who arrives in Paris. Even after Dr. Manette, who is viewed as a hero for his imprisonment in the Bastille, testifies on Darnay's behalf at his trial, he gets arrested again under new charges brought in front of the court, that is the written account of Dr. Manette’s imprisonment at the hands of Darnay's father, which was hidden in his cell and was found while the storming of the Bastille.
The written account of Dr. Manette contains a tragic story of the horrific acts conducted by the Evrémonde brothers and describes how they imprisoned Dr. Manette after he refused their offer of a bribe to keep quiet of what he witnessed.
Dr. Manette is horrified, but he is not allowed to retract his statement. Darnay is sentenced to be guillotined the next day. However the story concludes, when Sydney Carton sets up a plan to save Darnay and his family by impersonating him in the prison and sacrificing himself in place of Darnay and helping Lucie, whom he truly loved and her family to safely pass out of the country.
In my opinion, it is one of the greatest classics of English literature and I love this story since I first read it and the way he portrayed the barbarism and perverted law of the French Revolution will always stick with me. Every person in the story had a purpose, and Dickens brings it all together beautifully.
The mention of this book cannot go without Dicken’s famous opening passage that truly describes the drama and the atrocities that the French Revolution brings:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”