Saturday, 14 January 2012

The Sydney Carton Fan Club *or* My Dickens Rant

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
If you haven't heard that famous quote from one of the best books EVER (in my humble opinion) then you haven't lived.  Just saying'.
But I'm not here to offend, I'm here to encourage and inspire (or not).  I want to share my love of Dickens...with you!  (I will take this moment to point out I've only read one Dickens book - A Tale of Two Cities.  But, I know the storyline / have seen movies - I know, never a substitute!  But there are some really good Dickens movies - of many of his other novels and hope to read them someday, too!)

For starters, Charles Dickens (1812-1870) is an amazing author who wrote a number of wonderful and famous books such as Great Expectations, Oliver Twist (you may know this one as the musical, Oliver!) and A Tale of Two Cities.  Although I am not sure of his spiritual relationship with God, the majority people "back then" had a large understanding of the Bible, church, etc. and he makes many allusions to Bible verses in AtoTc (A Tale of Two Cities).  His books are morally correct and his characters range from the sweet Amy Dorrit, to young and foolish (but very nice!) Richard to the trusting Mr. Pinch...  However my favourite Dickens character is a drunk, careless lawyer by the name of Sydney Carton.

Granted, it was pretty weird being the only twelve-year-old girl on the block in love with a character no one else knew about.  But believe me, they soon knew all about him, because I couldn't stop liking him!  Even though I'm not, per se, obsessed with him now, he has a special place in my life because he's just so stinkin' amazing!  AtoTC is a book I think everyone should read if they want to have a better life.  :)  I'm serious!
I've heard it said that Dickens was paid by the word...  i.e. his descriptions might be considered a little wordy to some.  BUT, when I read Lord of the Rings, parts of Tolkien's fantastic novel could also be considered a little wordy.  So delete that excuse.  Many people have read LotR but not AtoTC.  That's not right.  In my humble opinion.

I read A Tale when I was twelve, I think.  BUT, I didn't just grab the book and read it, I watched the 1989 version of the movie first.  Now I know there are some book purists out there who refuse to watch movies before reading the books.  That's fine, but the 1989 version of AtoTC is extremely loyal to the plot of Dickens' famous novel and it really helped me understand the character's personalities as well as the storyline so I didn't have to focus on that as much as I read.  Last night I finished reading AtoTC for school and I loved it even more this time - in a different way.  I paid a lot more attention to detail (when I read it the first time I skimmed some parts) and the beauty of Dicken's writing.  I also love A Tale of Two Cities, the Musical and was able to find sections of the book that must've inspired certain lines in the songs.

So here's my mini review / everything you know in order to read AtoTC...

What's it about?
AtoTC is the story of guillotines, romance and true sacrifice.  The book begins as a prisoner of the Bastille (French prison), Dr. Manette, is "recalled to life".  He has lost his mind, but through his daughter Lucie, he remembers who he once was.  On the ship from France to England, they meet a kind man named Charles.  *SPOILER* Later, Charles is being tried for treason, but an uncanny resemblance between him and a lawyer named Sydney Carton saves him.  As Charles and Sydney both fall in love with Lucie, their fates intertwine up to the point of the book's last pages.  Will love and goodness truly win over evil?

Compared to some of Dicken's other novels, the storyline of AtoTC isn't that confusing.  But if you read a Wikipedia article on it first, watch the movie, or ASK ME for a synopsis of it (I WILL give you one!  lol  Well Lordwilling that is) then that might help.

AtoTC contains some of the most amazing characters that ever lived.  Read it.

Sydney's mine.  Don't steal him.  I'll share, don't. steal. him.
(Admittedly, there are people who fell in love with Sydney long before I did, but still.  He's mine.  At least partially.)

Footnotes / The Dickens Rant
This brings me to another point of this discussion / post / rant / thingy.  This is kinda the rant part I guess.  People really need to read Dickens in my humble opinion to get a taste of what, beauty can be.  I'm not saying that modern writing isn't talented and that there aren't good authors out there anymore (there are!) but for the most part, the style is completely different.  However, this brings me to my Dickens theory.  Technically, hypothesis.  1)  I think this generation is getting dumbed-down.  We spend so long reading easy-read books that we can never push ourselves up to the level of great classics.  Now I am not trying to brag here just because I've read Dickens!!!  Reading classics is often a struggle for me - for example, I never made it through Kidnapped, The Scarlet Letter or Robinson Crusoe...  But we still need to try!  (I read easy-read books and sometimes they're really cute / good, but we don't want to get "stuck" there!)  Point 2)  Sometimes I wonder if people don't like to read Dickens because they have no clue what he's talking about sometimes!  That seems like a valid reason, doesn't it?  Well, there's a solution to that.  Many authors back then make references to Greek and Roman mythology and literature.  You might hear someone mention "Damocles' Sword" (look it up!  Please!  Do it!  After you're done reading this, though) or some Greek hero.  If you familiarize yourself with Greek mythology and literature, then you will be able to understand the depth and meaning of Dickens' allusions.  Or, if you'd rather just get on with the reading, buy a book with footnotes.  The version of AtoTC that I have is the Penguin Classics version.  I think I got it at the British library gift shop in England (which is why I was so MAD when the movers kinda bent it accidentally!!!).  When I first read it, I thought the footnotes were distracting, but on my second reading I was able to discover, however, what the Loadstone rock was.  It's a reference to a magnetic rock (supposedly in Arabian Nights that was so strong it could pull nails out of a ship).  So when the name of the chapter is "Drawn to the Loadstone Rock" it's referencing that Charles is drawn to France in a way that magnet is drawn to metal.  See, isn't that epic?  Yet maybe this modern generation doesn't all enjoy Dickens so much is because they don't know what these things mean.  If the words mean nothing to you, then the book will most likely not seem like a worthy book to read.  (However I do have this "thing" against introductions.  Sometimes they're good to read, because they analyze the plot and point out important things.  But if you're reading AtoTC for the first time, without knowing the storyline, skip the intro; it will probably have spoilers in it.)

Abridged Versions
Eh...  well, I now own an abridged version of AtoTC because it came with my school program.  It looks pretty good - it's the Puffin Classics version -  but I will have to read it first to give my true opinion.  Actually, the first version of AtoTC I read was the Great Illustrated Classics version that has big letters and a picture on every page.  But I wouldn't recommend that if you want to get the true Dickens' flavor.

Other Versions!
I'm extremely loyal to the 1989 movie and James Wilby makes one of the most amazing Sydneys ever.  I am hoping to watch more versions of AtoTC though, so maybe I will review those in the near future.

The musical of AtoTC is epic.  I will probably review that on its own separate blog post.  Unfortunately it is no longer performed and the only versions available are...

The International Studio Recording {CD} - really good, except no libretto (lyric booklet)
The Concept Cast Recording {CD} - good, but I haven't heard all of it
The Concert {DVD} - really good except it cuts out a lot of songs, so it seems a bit choppy and doesn't give you the whole feel for the musical.
So, I really wish I could see it live.  But there are dreams that cannot be!  (That's a quote from Les Miserables for any of you who picked up on that.)

And last, the conclusion...  (I know, you're thinking, "Finally!")
AtoTC is a well-written book with a great moral and storyline.  If you feel inspired (or disturbed) by this random Sydney-Carton-Fan-Club-menagerie post, then go to the library, go to a used book store, or get on and order a copy.  Read a chapter a day.  If you find yourself getting "stuck" (it took me 6 months to read AtoTC the first time.  That's okay.) then take a break.  If you need to, skim over some sections that seem tough.  If you have no clue what's going on, e-mail me!  But I challenge you to read AtoTC this year.

SYDNEY CARTON = (One of my) HERO[es]

^ Okay not the best pic of me but this is me and my copy of AToTC:)


  1. Aww, Kara, i love you and miss you so much.

  2. Can't wait till u can come back and post! Miss u Kara!!!!!!!!

  3. I love Sidney too. I read a Tale of Two Cities 5 times. I think its my favorite novel ever, Jane Eyre is my next favorite, I read it 2 times. Love Victorian novels.

    1. Hey! Thanks so much for the post... ooh my goodness, another Sydney Carton fan - that rocks! :) I love the story of Jane Eyre as well... I confess I have yet to read the unabridged book though. :S

  4. You should read it. I think I actually read Jane Eyre 3 times, once in high school. She is a noble soul like Sydney. I had no idea there were fan clubs for Sydney Carton. Next to A Tale of Two Cities, I also liked David Copperfield by Dickens but A Tale of Two Cities is best novel I ever read.

    1. Sorry for the late reply! Thanks again for your comment. I confess I tried to read JE again very recently but life has been crazily busy! So I'm not sure if I'll read it really slowly, or wait until next summer when I'll have more time to read. :)
      Well, I'm not sure if there are REALLY fan clubs for SC, but I like to celebrate his life over at my other blog, :)
      Have you read Great Expectations? I've heard that is one of Dickens' best, although I'm not sure how it could be better than AtoTC :)

  5. Just saw your reply. Yes, I read Great Expectations but didn't like it as much. I might read it again sometime to see if I like it better. I read David Copperfield which I liked although its long. Also read Oliver Twist, and of course A Christmas Carol. I'm reading Jane Austen now, Sense and Sensibility. I'm on my second reading of it. I may tackle Pride and Prejudice next. I read a lot in high school too. I read Gone with the Wind and Raintree County. Loved Raintree County when I read it. I've read countless books over the years but I like the classics the best. They really knew how to write.

    1. Ooh!!! Jane Austen is cool. I really like her storylines and characters. I had trouble reading "Pride and Prejudice" because I was so familiar with the storyline and characters (from watching the movies...) that I didn't actually enjoy the book as much. (Isn't it awful!?) I'm sorta having the same problem with Jane Eyre, but Charlotte Bronte is a very descriptive writer, so at least when I'm reading JE it gives me something new to learn (since I am fairly familiar with the storyline). :)
      I agree, the classics rock. I'm def. hoping to read more of them, though some of them can be lengthy reads! haha

  6. The book Jane Eyre has so much more to it than any movie adaptation I've seen.


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