This is the 3rd book by Dickens I read, after Great Expectations (which I didn't like) and Oliver Twist (which I liked a lot). In some sense it's a typical 19th century book. However, there are some notable differences. What makes this book unusual is that it has no central character. It has at least 3 of them, or maybe even 5, depending on the point of view. It tells the story of a family - father, daughter and her husband, who oscillate between London and Paris in the turbulent years between the American independence war and the French revolution. The latter, in particular, is presented in very realistic and vivid colors. The author tries not only to describe some of the events (all the characters being completely fictional, of course) but also convey the motivation for them to the reader, mixing in some philosophy occasionally. Here is a quote I liked:
All the devouring and insatiate Monsters imagined since imagination could record itself, are fused in the one realisation, Guillotine. And yet there is not in France, with its rich variety of soil and climate, a blade, a leaf, a root, a sprig, a peppercorn, which will grow to maturity under conditions more certain than those that have produced this horror. Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.
In style, the book reminded me of "Las Miserables" for some reason I can't put my finger on. Maybe the cynical stories of poverty, maybe the descriptions of Paris, or even the subtle tricks played on the reader when some character does something apparently without explanation, which becomes clear later. I also must say that the first half of the book wasn't very good - it took Dickens a hell of a long time to build up the plot and develop the characters. The second half was much better, however.


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