A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens
1859

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. So begins one of the best-known works of fiction ever, full stop. Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities follows London and Paris in the years immediately preceding and immediately following the 1789 French Revolution.

Taking as its inspiration a non-fiction account of the revolution by Thomas Carlyle, A Tale… is not your typically-tragicomic Dickens, but an attempt to tell the real dynamics of the revolution in story form. The brutality of the pre-revolutionary monarchy and the widespread immiseration of the French peasantry; the revolution’s fall from righteous rage and hope to indiscriminate¬† murderousness in the years after 1789; the parellels Dickens recognized in the England of the same time – this is Dickens weaving personal tales out of Carlyle’s anlaysis of the lives of states and populations as cycles of destruction, re-birth, destruction.

150 years and 200 million copies later, there are few novels that can match its legacy.

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