The Big Read III: A Tale of Two Cities -- Charles Dickens Book the First: Recalled to Life, Chapters 4-6

Taleof2cities Chapter Four:  The Preparation
In which Miss Manette is told that her father is still alive.

  • I like this:

The Concord bedchamber being always assigned to a passenger by the mail, and passengers by the mail being always heavily wrapped up from head to foot, the room had the odd interest for the establishment of the Royal George, that although but what kind of man was seem to go into it, all kinds and varieties of men came out of it.

And then at least seven employees of the hotel (including the landlady) stand around and wait to see what Mr. Lorry looks like all cleaned up.  Hee hee.  Oh, and just for kicks I looked up sea-coal.

  • And I liked the little details in the description of Mr. Lorry:  that he "had a good leg, and was a little vain of it" and that his stockings are of a better quality than the rest of his his clothes.
  • "It is fifteen years since we--since I--came last from France."  AH HA!  Now WHAT was THAT all about?  (Sometimes it's fun to write like Harriet M. Welch.)
  • If waiters nowadays just took a step back and stared while I ate, I would go bonkers.
  • "...and the sea did what it liked, and what it liked was destruction.  It thundered at the town, and thundered at the cliffs, and brought the coast down, madly.  The air among the houses was of so strong a piscatory flavour that one might have supposed sick fish went up to be dipped in it, as sick people went down to be dipped int the sea."  Okay, I'm at the point where I want Dickens to come over to my house and tell me stories by the woodstove this winter.  If he was still alive, I mean.  Not so much wanting the zombie version.
  • "Feelings!  I have no time for them, no chance of them."  I don't buy it.  The description of his eyes earlier, his reaction upon seeing her, his general fidgety demeanor during this conversation, etc.  Oh.  Maybe he's trying to keep her calm by keeping a calm face himself?
  • I hope Miss Manette's lady friend has more to do in the story.  She's awesome:

"If it was ever intended that I should go across salt water, do you suppose Providence would have cast my lot in an island?"

This being another question hard to answer, Mr. Jarvis Lorry withdrew to consider it.

Chapter Five:  The Wine-Shop
In which we learn that life in Paris is less than awesome.

  • Gosh.  He doesn't bother with any subtlety when it comes to the foreshadowing, does he?:

Those who had been greedy with the staves of the cask, had acquired a tigerish smear about the mouth; and one tall joker so besmirched, his head more out of a long squalid bag of a nightcap than in it, scrawled upon a wall with his fingers dipped in muddy wine-lees--BLOOD.

The time was to come, when that wine too would be spilled on the street-stones, and when the stain of it would be red upon many there.

  • "Samples of a people that had undergone a terrible grinding and re-grinding in the mill, and certainly not in the fabulous mill which ground old people young..."  I don't even know what to say about this -- combined with the bit about the sick fish from the previous chapter, I'm totally depressed that I haven't read more Dickens.  HE'S CRAZY!  (IN A GOOD WAY.)
  • Wait.  Madame Defarge is the knitting lady, right?  That's actually the extent of my knowledge about her -- that she knits.  A lot.
  • I liked how Defarge made as much noise as possible when going into Monsieur Manette's room, so as not to frighten him, I assume.  What was up with letting the three men look in on him?  To show them what had been done to him, what he had gone through?  And to maybe spread the word about it?

Chapter Six:  The Shoemaker
In which we meet Miss Manette's father, who is quite possibly a broken man.

  • This hurt:

Mr. Lorry had come silently forward. leaving the daughter by the door.  When he had stood, for a minute or two, by the side of Defarge, the shoemaker looked up.  He showed no surprise as seeing another figure, but the unsteady fingers of one of his hands strayed to his lips as he looked at it (his lips and his nails were of the same pale lead-colour), and then the hand dropped to his work, and he once more bent over the shoe.  The look and the action had occupied but an instant.

  • This hurt, too:

"Did you ask me for my name?"
"Assuredly I did."
"One Hundred and Five, North Tower."
"Is that all?"
"One Hundred and Five, North Tower."

  • Okay.  All of the repetition in Miss Manette's speeches is getting to be a little much. 
  • "Only one soul was to be seen, and that was Madame Defarge--who leaned against the door-post, knitting, and saw nothing."  I can't imagine standing and knitting for any length of time.  Maybe she moved a chair into the doorway.  But then she walks and knits:

Madame Defarge immediately called to her husband that she would get them, and went, knitting, out of the lamplight, through the court-yard.  She quickly brought them down and handed them in;--and immediately afterwards leaned against the door-post, knitting, and saw nothing.

Color me impressed.


Other reader/bloggers:

TadMack at Finding Wonderland

Adventures in Multiplicity


Free copies of A Tale of Two Cities are available at Project Gutenberg and Librivox.