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A Tale of Two Cities
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Charles Dickens' masterpiece, A Tale of Two Cities, sets a riveting story of romantic and familial love against the violent drama of the French Revolution. The personal and the political are deeply connected, and complicated, and additional historical background regarding the French monarchy, feudal system, and French Revolution will help young readers appreciate the novel. It's also worth noting that though this is one of Dickens' best-loved works, it is atypical of the author in some ways. A Tale of Two Cities has fewer humorous, colorful characters than others of his most-read books (other than the Crunchers), and the plot is more grand and far-reaching.
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What's the story?
At the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities, Dr. Alexandre Manette has been released after many years of wrongful imprisonment in France. He is reunited with his beautiful, pure-hearted daughter, Lucie, who tenderly cares for him and takes him with her to England to live. During the journey across the channel, Lucie meets Charles Darnay, a French instructor who becomes part of the Manettes' family circle. A secret about Charles' background eventually causes him, the Manettes, and some of their friends to return to France, where mob rule now drives the revolution and threatens to destroy them all.
Is it any good?
A TALE OF TWO CITIES masterfully interweaves political and personal events. It reveals much about the injustice that incited the French Revolution, the gray areas between the populist ideals and blind vengeance, and the toll the rebellion took on individuals. This is one of Charles Dickens' best-loved novels, with good reason. The plot is suspenseful, the scope is far-reaching, and the characters are as rich and affecting as can be. No love was ever sweeter than Lucie and Charles', no father and daughter were ever more deeply attached than the Manettes, and no character in English literature ever had a greater purpose, or better lines, than Sydney Carton.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what Dickens intends for readers to feel and understand about the French Revolution. What is right and wrong?
Why does Sydney Carton do what he does?
What does Dickens seem to be suggesting is similar and/or different about his two cities?
Think about the Defarges' cohorts, Vengeance and the three Jacques. What do these characters represent?
A Tale of Two Cities is considered a classic and is often required reading in school. Why do you think that is?
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