September 05, 2008

TBR3: A Tale of Two Cities - Ending the First Book

Another lovely jaunt through the Dickensian countryside of dry, witty lines, but the tone of the novel already grows a bit more dark...

Are you reading?

Ch. 4
So many 19th century novels have people striding off to Bath, or to take the water in various places, that this description of Dover really amuses me. "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 in the sea." p.16 Smells like Pier 39!

So, our Mr. Jarvis Lorry has taken the mail packet to Dover, and is prepared to see a young lady. He relates to her a story -- and continues to say that his connection with it is simply a matter of business, with no feelings involved. "A matter of business -- don't be distressed." Hmm! But the more Mr. Lorry says this phrase, the more distressed both he and Miss M. become!

HEE! The woman has bonnet like a "Grenadier wooden measure" or a great wheel of STILTON!? p. 23 Oh, this is a very bad hat indeed. According to Wikip., 19th c. grenadiers had hats like bishop's mitres. Poor wimpy Mr. Lorry!

(And equally wimpy Miss Manette!)

Oh, all right. Granted, she's just received news that a parent might be alive. It's a little startling when you *thought* you were an orphan.

Ch. 5
The best definition of cobblestones yet: "The rough, irregular stones of the street, pointing every way, and designed, one might have thought, expressly to lame all living creatures that approached them..." p.24 Dickens might have been describing the roads here in Glasgow, I kid you not.

Deepest, darkest foreshadowing: "The time was to come when that wine too would be spilled on the street-stones, and the stain of it would be red upon many there." p. 26

Mr. Lorry and Miss Manette arrive in the dirt poor and starving suburb of Saint Antoine in Paris, and find Monsieur Mamette, who is a broken shadow of a man, in a broken city suffering from hunger and want. His daughter finally comes unglued from her perpetual state of girly fear, and goes straight into being sort of motherly, and they swoop him away... and Madame Defarge knits, and sees nothing.

I remember her. She "sees nothing" a lot.

Meanwhile, it's the end of the first book, and Mr. Lorry has peculiar worries about what all has been lost from Monsieur Manette. What mysterious old life is it to which that poor imprisoned man can't say he cares to be recalled? Mysteries abound.

It's actually really cool to read this in bits like this; I'm getting a much more nuanced version of events, and remembering tiny details -- that will probably come back and give me that "Aha!" feeling later.

Ciao, ciao, 'til next we meet our mysterious benefactor and all other players.


Sarah Stevenson said...

Yes!! The "piscatory flavor" of the air and the hat like a wheel of Stilton definitely got me, too. Will post a few observations of my own later - perhaps tomorrow, since I'll be in transit (i.e., on a plane back to NorCal) in a few hours and still have to finish chapter 6...

Anonymous said...

I just read this not long ago. Somehow I'd missed it. This must be a whole different experience of the book.

At first it was sheer plodding -- dark mood, wading through endless details, sarcasm that got old quickly for me. I pressed on in faith that it couldn't stay this dark and be a classic. Then it caught fire, and I loved it.

Madame DeFarge. Chills...

Anonymous said...

I loved the Stilton, too. And the cobblestones made me laugh because there was recently a push to cobblestone part of downtown Kennebunk, and I just wondered, "Why, oh why -- sure, they're picturesque, but everyone in town will be hobbling around on sprained (at the best!) ankles before long!" Sheesh.

"Sort of motherly"? She full-on jammed his head into her bosom and rocked him! (Okay, I know that's a huge exaggeration, but every time someone does that in a book that's exactly how I picture it...)

tanita✿davis said...

Yeaaah, even for a 19th century gal, our Miss Manette is a bit over the top. I'm scared of her bosom, frankly.