Rohit's Realm

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March 26, 2010

Redemption (Part One)

Earlier this week, I set out a goal for myself: read two books for fun by the end of the week. If I was an optimistic person, I might have taken the numerous responses I received to that entry to sympathize or discuss books as a sign that reading is still alive and well amongst a populace inexplicably hypnotized by the abomination of reality television. But I am not an optimistic person, and a more likely explanation is simply that I am stuck in an bibliophilic echo chamber with others who pride themselves on not knowing, understanding, or caring of the ways of the (much loathed) unwashed masses.

Regardless, I am happy to report that as of today, I am 75 percent of the way to completion. In this entry, I will review my first book (which I completed earlier this week), and in next, I will discuss the one I'm making my way through this weekend.

To mark my return to the real world, I chose A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. For those who have been with me on this most miserable of blogs for awhile, that might seem like an odd selection. But though my tastes do tend to the Russian epics, I have always been fond of Dickens. Great Expectations would easily make my list of favorite novels. Until this week, however, A Tale of Two Cities would not have made any such list; indeed, it ranked among the few books that I could remember especially not liking in the past two decades. (Others include The Scarlet Letter (argh!) and Moby Dick (ugh!), but that's a long and angry story for another day.) But having read it some thirteen years ago as a freshman in high school, I thought it was about time to give it a second chance.

The other noteworthy aspect of this reading was that it was the first book I read on my Kindle. Though I had hastily purchased one last year in a fit of hysteria induced by the nauseating prospect of reading hundreds of law review article submissions on a computer screen, until this week I had never sat down with anything longer than a hundred or so pages.1 I was wondering whether it would be uncomfortable, but I can now report that it was not at all. The e-ink technology really makes reading easy on the eyes. And for those, like me, who like older novels, Project Gutenberg, which provides free copies of books in the public domain, is rather awesome.

Anyway, as to the book, I loved it. Since I suspect most of you have already read it, I will not bother with a comprehensive review. Suffice to say that it is a historical tragedy set in the years leading to and during the French Revolution. My vague recollection from ninth grade had been that the third part (which pulls everything together) was good but the first two had dragged miserably. This, however, must have simply been the (now embarrassing) result of youthful impatience or maybe disinterest. Quite the opposite of dragging, the first part flew by on this reading and I was pulled in from the first chapter.

The book is, of course, not a happy one, and I found myself in quite the melancholy state when reading it.2 In particular, I was quite drawn to Sydney Carton's character—and not just because he's a self-loathing, self-destructive lawyer (everything I aspire to be!). There is something very familiar about his condition that I think most people could identify with at some point in their life. And that's troubling.

Finally, as it turns out, I had actually visited the Temple, the legal center in London described in the novel, while working there this past summer. One of the English attorneys had shown us (the US summer associates) around, and it was quite surreal reading about how Charles Dickens must have known it 150 years before.

Anyhow, overall, I highly recommend the novel. Definitely worth a second read if you didn't like it back in high school, or a first if you've never gotten around to it. Four stars of five (only because I think Great Expectations is better).

^ 1 Incidentally, having to read a 100 page article on law is something I would never wish upon my worst enemy.
^ 2 Given my usual disposition, you can only imagine.


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