Seasons of Superlatives

A few months ago I read Dickens', A Tale of Two Cities, which was a book gifted to me longer ago by a dear friend. To date I have read three Dickens Novels:

  • A Christmas Carol
  • Great Expectations
  • A Tale of Two Cities

I love to say I love reading Dickens. Though a part of me thinks that I may love saying "I love reading Dickens" more than I love "reading Dickens". Jokes aside, I feel that Dickens novels are incredibly hard for me to get into, for their language (19th century British), and depth of scene and dialogue. After a few days when I am actually able to understand what I'm reading though I cannot put them down.

In every Dickens novel you seem to come across the most profound life lessons in just about every subject from friendships, to loss, and love. Within A Tale of Two Cities, you find yourself at the heart of the French Revolution, perhaps the original 'eat the rich' campaign. The beauty of this story is how it captures the perspectives of so many, from the Frenchmen who are a part of the revolution, members of French Nobility, fled Frenchmen, and Englishmen. Through these lenses we experience every human emotion and search for the very last shreds of humanity in captured Paris. The candidness with which Dickens portrays the brutality in France should be observed by everyone who considers revolution to be the answer to anything. I do not mean to dismiss that the brutality was an answer to decades of mistreatment and abuse at the hands of nobility, but brutality is brutality nonetheless.

I really struggled to pick a quote from this novel, not for a short supply, but for the opposite reason. This is a novel which I truly wish everyone could have the pleasure of reading; it is the type of novel one carries with them forever. With that said, I've decided to select the very opening line of the book.

I was in a Laundromat, "Baby Girl's Bubbles", in Harlem when I started this novel, and this opening almost felt explosive. I would liken it to the boldest of introductions in Classical Music (perhaps Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 or Grieg's Piano Concerto in A Minor). Dickens does not beat around the bush at all by attempting to create some dramatic scene or event to catch you. He instead delays to just narrate the introduction directly to you. It is one that feels grandiose and perhaps a little conceited, but by the end of the novel I can't imagine any way to better describe its contents.

Without further ado:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Go read A Tale of Two Cities.

-Peter V.