A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Historical fiction, Classic
Imprint: Puffin Classics
ISBN: 978-0-141-32554-5

Charles Dickens. The name itself brings tirade of literary works to the reader’s mind. Out of such works, Oliver Twist, Christmas Carols and David Copperfield are few.

A Tale of Two Cities is about a civil revolution, one that takes the good and the bad alike; for personal vengeance leaving rationality, and for benefit of the public without rationality. Though it is supposed to be about two cities, the story takes place in London, Paris and Saint Antoine. There are people moving between these places to bring out the story that is so magnificent and greater than life that one cannot help but sit back and revel in it.

Doctor Alexnadre Manette is brought to civilized life back by his good old friend Jarvis Lorry and daughter Lucie Manette, and brought to London from Saint Antoine. She also aids in saving life of Charles Darnay whom she marries later. Charles Darnay and Sidney Carton, a lawyer and a family friend, are lookalikes. Due to circumstances that were unanticipated, Charles is imprisoned in Paris during the French revolution. Mr. and Mrs. Defarge, the couple who once helped Manette family, now are hell-bent on prosecuting Charles Darnay due to his aristocratic connections in France. How the doctor, his friend and Sidney Carton help in getting Darnay out of prison and escaping from France is the story of this masterpiece.

The outstanding characters of this story are Sidney Carton and Madame Defarge also known as Therese Defarge. The reader will pity Carton for being a loyal person who is in love with Lucie Manette, but little can be guessed about the role he plays in her life. Madame Defarge is a sinister figure who will give you chills even on a summer noon. All other characters are important in their place. There are too many characters in the story, but they are all justified. None of them is unnecessarily stuffed to make the story grow.

A Tale of Two Cities is an astounding book that never lets the reader down and never lets the reader put it down. So captivating is this story that you will regret for not having read it sooner in your life. Love, vengeance and loyalty are personified in the form of characters created by Charles Dickens. It might even turn to be an overwhelming read.

One should never judge a book by its cover, and one should never judge a book by its title too. I thought this must be another story of how two cities tried to be better than one another, but I was proven wrong. This is much more.

If you have not already read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens as a part of your school curriculum, then this moment, right now is the best time to start reading it.

So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell

So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell

Review by Shwetha H S

Change is the only constant. We keep changing, but we cannot always accept the changes. When changes happen for bad, we don’t know how to undo them. In the process of finding the undo option, we might screw up things even more than initially thought. Such is the story of families of Clarence Smith and Lloyd Wilson, settled in the farms of Illinois, who were once the best friends who were struck by the change. The story is also of the narrator who was, yes was, a friend of Clarence Smith’s son, Cletus Smith.

The story is dipped in gloom initially and then blended with sorrows of the two families. Divulging the nature of change will let your imagination run and you might not read the novel. The author has shown you the grief of each member of both families involved and what they go through. It is not only the families that are affected, but also people close to them. He tells, through the narrator, that each person grieves in his own way and it is okay if you don’t understand some of them. But grieving is essential. This novel has a few major characters and a few that keep coming in and going out of the story. William Maxwell has shown what happens in all their lives in depth without elaborating unnecessarily. By the time you finish reading So Long, See You Tomorrow, you will be alive with a heavy heart.

Scott Kauffman

Guest Post: Hemingway’s Dilemma by Scott Kauffman

Wondering if it had improved any with age in the forty-five years since I garnered my gentleman’s “C” on a book report from an English teacher likely being generous, I again cracked open The Old Man and the Sea. While my first reading of a fish story about the one that got away bored me to tears, or maybe only to Bonanza that evening, my second left me unsettled for Old Man I see now is Hemingway’s brooding meditation on approaching death.

Like Santiago who catches the biggest fish of his life only to lose it to sharks and in that moment knows his best days as a fisherman are forever behind him, so too Hemingway saw his best days as a writer slipping fast as fish line through his fingers. Old Man proved to be his last novel, and he wrote little thereafter that did not require heavy editing. In its pages he foreshadows his own suicide ten years later on an Idaho mountaintop where, ever the showoff, he unloaded both shotgun barrels into the back of his mouth. A not surprising death for a man whose is father took his own life as did two siblings and at least one grandchild. A death foreshadowed even earlier in The Sun Also Rises, set almost 30 years to the day before his suicide, and later in For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Hemingway leaves us with the question of how should one meet death?  Santiago’s answer is by struggling on come what may: A man, he insists over and over, can be destroyed but should never allow himself to be defeated. Old Santiago fought the good fight until he had nothing but a skeleton of a great fish left to defend and sailed home to die dreaming of the lions he once saw in his youth as they played on a beach in Africa.

So what to make of Hemingway in the end giving in to the despair of defeat? His failing in the fight he wanted most to make, feared his whole life he would not make, and in the end did not. Perhaps this final tragedy, of not going down with both fists swinging, is a fate awaiting us all unless we have lived without ideals, which, Hemingway says, would for us be the greater tragedy. Hemingway’s Dilemma tells us that life gives us a choice between two tragedies: Living a life absent of ideals or living one with ideals but in the end failing to live up to them.

The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald

Review by Shwetha H S

One of the famous novels of all time, The Great Gatsby perfectly depicts mankind’s need of pomp and show. It shows the bare and unravelled nature of human mind in the behaviour of each character. It also manages to convince the reader to question the priorities of love and prestige in their society. Narrator is a third person as well as he is in the story. It is a recount of a phase in his life. With very few characters, the story line is simple and is not confusing; no beating around the bush to extend the story. Though it is written in a different era, this story is still applicable in current time.

मुझे चांद चाहिए, लेखक सुरेंद्र वर्मा (Meaning: I Want Moon, by Surendra Verma)

For English translation of the review of this book, please scroll down.

समीक्षा: श्वेता एच एस द्वारा

कहानी की पृष्टभूमि एक छोटे शहर की लड़की वर्षा पर आधारित है| वर्षा स्वाभाव से अंतर्मुखी, विनम्र और शर्मीली किंतु महत्वकाँशाओं से परिपूण है; जिसके जीवन का लक्ष्य एक सफल एवं चहेती फिल्म अभिनेत्री बनने का है|

कहानी एवं उसका हर एक अध्याय कुछ इस तरह व्यक्त किया गया है कि, उसके अंत का अनुमान लगाना असंभव है| हर एक पात्र को प्रस्तुत करने से पूर्ण उसकी पृष्टभूमि का सन्छिप्त वर्णन किया गया है| लेखक ने कहानी को कहीं भी दिशाहीन नही होने दिया, किसी घटना की भूमिका बांधनें के लिए लेखक आपको समय में थोड़ा पीछे भी ले जाता है| कहानी में बहुत सारे किरदार हैं और सबकी उपस्तिथि यशोदा शर्मा/सिलबिल/वर्षा वशिष्ठ के जीवन की कहानी व्यक्त करने में बहुत महत्वपूर्ण है|

जैसा कि किताब का शीर्षक व्यक्त करता है, ये कहानी कुछ असंभव हासिल करने की कोशिश कि कहानी है| तो, क्या वर्षा वशिष्ठ सभी इच्छाओं को प्राप्त करती है? इस प्रक्रिया में क्या उसे कुछ खोना भी पड़ता है? इस उपन्यास अत्यधिक दिलचस्प है जिसे पूरा पढ़े बिना नीचे रखना बहुत मुश्किल है| हिन्दी भाषा के पाठकों के लिए यह उपन्यास एक अनमोल खजाना है|

“कोई इच्छा अधूरी रह जाए, तो ज़िंदगी में आस्था बानी रहती है।” – वर्षा वशिष्ठ


English translation of the review given above in Hindi:

Review by Shwetha H S

This is a story of how a small town girl, who is an introvert and shy, grows up ambitiously yet humbly, to become a successful, much sought-after, superstar in Indian film industry is narrated captivating manner. You cannot even once guess the ending of any chapter, leave alone the whole story. It is a must read for any voracious reader who can read Hindi.

Narration is in such a way that every character introduced gets his/her background explained briefly. The same goes with the situations too; if the events leading to the current situations are not explained in the flow of the story, then the author takes you slightly back in time to let you know the sequence. There are too many characters and their presence is justified by the life story of Yashoda Sharma/Silbil/Varsha Vashisht. The title of the book suggests it is a story of an attempt to gain something impossible. So, does Varsha Vashisht attain all that she desires? Does she lose anything in the process? This novel will make it hard for you to put it down.

Koi ichcha adhoori reh jaaye, toh zindagi mein aastha bani rehti hai (If any desire is unfulfilled, then it lets you retain faith in life.)” – Varsha Vashisht