Monday, 23 December 2013

A Tale of Two Cities Read-a-long: Book Three

I FINISHED! It was touch and go for a while there, but we made it! I found that the problem with A Tale of Two Cities is that you don't particularly want to pick it back up once you've put it down. I found the length of time between readings growing longer and longer, to the point where I didn't pick up Book Three until the 'deadline' had already passed.

That said, I found this book an awful lot easier to read, so much that I actually liked it. I know, right!? 


In my eyes, Book Three may as well be a different book to the others. There are no lengthy ramblings about footsteps or obscure metaphors about mist. I didn't have to use Wikipedia to work out what the hell was going on. It was readable, enjoyable and if the book had started with this (somehow), I'd have done an awful lot less bitching a fortnight ago. 

It demonstrates the brutality of the French Revolution much better than Books One and Two, which is what I was hoping for when I signed up for the read-a-long in the first place. There's an atmosphere of fear and suspicion that just seeps through the pages... it's chilling.

Above all, one hideous figure grew as familiar as if it had been before the general gaze from the foundations of the world--the figure of the sharp female called La Guillotine.
    It was the popular theme for jests; it was the best cure for headache, it infallibly prevented the hair from turning grey, it imparted a peculiar delicacy to the complexion, it was the National Razor which shaved close: who kissed La Guillotine, looked through the little window and sneezed into the sack. It was the sign of the regeneration of the human race. It superseded the Cross. Models of it were worn on breasts from which the Cross was discarded, and it was bowed down to and believed in where the Cross was denied.
    It sheared off heads so many, that it, and the ground it most polluted, were a rotten red. It was taken to pieces, like a toy-puzzle for a young Devil, and was put together again when the occasion wanted it. It hushed the eloquent, struck down the powerful, abolished the beautiful and good. 
Even the characters seem more alive now - they have purpose and backstories, instead of just meandering around mumbling to each other. Miss Pross is my favourite, except I keep wanting to call her Miss Prism ("A HANDBAG, Miss Prism!?"). I imagine her as a grown-up Merrida, I'm not sure why. Her scene with Madame Defarge is just all kinds of perfect.

Speaking of, I'm less of a fan. She just seemed far too cliched and over-the-top. Yes yes, I'm aware that's The Point as Charles Dickens is satirical etc. I know. But that doesn't mean I can't find her irritating regardless.

The ending was all kinds of perfect though. I'd seen it coming because a) I figured the resemblance between Darnay and Carson had to be there for a reason and b) when Dr Manette's statement was read out in court, it was fairly obvious Madame Defarge was the missing sister. That said, it didn't detract from my enjoyment in the slightest as it was done very, very well. The final pages, with Carson? Awesome.

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known."
As to the book as a whole... I just can't work out how I feel about it. I'll attempt to get my thoughts together to write a proper review, but I don't know. Book One was dire, almost incomprehensible - Book Two was better but I still didn't enjoy it. Book Three I actually really liked... but enough to make-up for the first two? I DON'T KNOW!!!

A million thanks to Bex at An Armchair by the Sea for hosting this read-a-thon - I would never have read this without her!

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