If you guess you get a cookie.
Do you give up? Alright, I suppose I will tell you then. This week I undertook the great, bold and slightly daunting quest of reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickons.
|It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.|
*CAUTION! There will be much fangirling and ranting in this post! There will be spoilers!
*It is also pretty long.
Why did I choose to undertake this task? Well there were lots of reasons. First of all, I have wanted to read ATOTC for quite a few years, but every time I picked it up the first chapter was so hard I couldn't get through it. This drove me nuts because I pride myself on being able to read anything I open, regardless of writing style or feel. But Charles Dickons stumped me and I could NOT get through that first chapter. It was exhausting and boring and it did not grip me in any sort of way. What was the point in reading something that wasn't gripping?
There was no reason. I proceeded to hunt down a different, more enjoyable story to read.
So what was different this time?
My older sister owns the soundtrack for A Tale of Two Cities; The Musical. It is the Original Cast Recording (because we have a thing for *original recordings*) and every now and again she listens to it. I heard it for the first time a few years ago and I fell in love with the music, the story and - you guessed it - Sydney Carton. He was such a sad pitiful person and he quickly rose to the rank of fabulous. He was right next to Raoul as my favorite male character in Musical Theater. We listened to it a couple times over the next three years or so, but since Kat was the only one who owned it (and it wasn't on youtube at the time) I didn't hear it half as much as I wanted to.
Then my sisters hit their musical high, and we listened to all the musicals again - including, for the first time in ages, A Tale of Two Cities. And I found the soundtrack on youtube (the Original Soundtrack!!) and listened to it four times in the same week. I got teeny bit obsessed, and that obsession has not ENDED. It's still going! It's been over a month - As I am sure most of you know :) I can't help it. I love Sydney, and his story hit me even harder this time. He is such a sad mashed potato :( He breaks my heart. When I am not listening to Phantom I listen to ATOTC.* I am starting to memorize a lot of the songs and can now sing along with most of the musical. (I can sing along with ALL the songs that have Sydney in them 8-D )
*Let me just say, musical theater is the bomb-diggety. It is so fabulous. It makes everything better.
Basically, the more I listened to it, the more I wanted more Sydney. I was on such a high that I decided now would be the perfect time to try ATOTC - The book - one more time.
And I did. I actually picked it up, started the first line and just kept reading.
I read the whole book in two days (give or take a few hours) and when I finished, at I wasn't sure if I had actually enjoyed it or not. I gave it some thought and finally come to a conclusion:
I liked the book. But I LOVED Sydney Carton, and I really read it for him. I would tell myself, "It's okay. Three Chapters and we get some Carton." So much of that book is just descriptive world building and excessive use of adjective and adverbs of every kind, repeated four or five times in a paragraph. That made the story hard to read - you really have to be in the mood and be committed. There were sentences nearly a page LONG in that book. I'm not even kidding! A Page. LONG. I have never seen so many semicolons and commas! It was kind of exhausting to read so much. There were so many words and just so much everything that it got overwhelming. The characters all tended to be too dramatic (especially Lucie) and the whole story was just a bit too emotional. And in this instance, I don't mean like a FEEEEEEEEEEEELZ! emotional. (though there was that kind too) More like "OH EVERYONE IS SO OVERWHELMED, WHATEVER SHALL WE DO???"
Whenever the story revolved around Sydney Carton, it was Brilliant. I loved all of Sydney's scenes. He is the saddest Mashed Potato. Reading his story made his character even more painful because you learn all this other stuff that you don't really see in the musical - at least not as much. Like, he and his boss had gone to school together, and his boss was obviously a huge bully and really used Sydney and made him feel useless and pathetic. Stryver (the boss) was a Slime-Bag and he treated Sydney like dirt. He had no self-esteem and no one in all the world cared about him. He made me so sad!!!!!!
SO! Back to the reason I started this post. LOL. I didn't stop at just listening to the musical. I bought a copy of it in CONCERT on DVD.* They were on a stage. And acting. And it was fabulous! Sydney was the saddest of mashed potatoes!!
*I wanted the stage production but there wasn't one. So I settled for the Concert edition. It was an abridged production, and it wasn't as good as it could have been on a real stage, but it was still good.
When I finished that (And then listened to the whole musical again,) I decided that I still like the musical better than the book. But there were elements in the book I liked better.
The musical is more from Sydney's point of view, and I LOVE that. There is more Sydney in the musical. In the book it is usually other people meeting Sydney and/or mentioning him in passing. You rarely get a chapter from his point of view, and when you do it seems too short. I think the whole story would have been ten times better if it had been Sydney's story and not Lucie's and Charles'.
In the book I really liked Charles. I liked him in the musical too, but I liked him more in the book. He had a lot of really sweet moments in the book that I don't believe were in the musical. (But then I haven't seen the full thing yet either.) I don't know why so many people think he is flat and silly .... Well okay. When he was in love he was kind of a dope. But he was a sweet dope. And and he was nice to Sydney. Even when Sydney was drunk (and insulting!) he was nice to Sydney. He welcomed him into his home after his wedding to Lucy. He let Sydney act as a godfather toward his children. He called him his friend and never judged him too harshly, even though he had seen him at his worst. I really liked Charles for that.
In the musical, I really liked Lucie. She was sweet and cute and she was really good to Sydney. But in the book she drove me In.sane. I know she was nice to Sydney and that was all fine and good, but seriously that women was all over the place. She was constantly Over-flowing With Joy, or Completely Distraught about something or other. and usually it was just sooo overwhelming.
|Lucie! Stop falling to your knees! FOR REAL.|
I think the Lucie in the musical was more what Charles Dickons was going for in the book, he just never quite made it. They did a good job of highlighting her kindness without making her too good and they filled her out with all these cute little quirks that made her likable. Unfortunately the book didn't do this.
She was annoying okay? Really annoying.
I liked that in the musical they built more with Sydney and Little Lucie's relationship.* I like that they drew that element out and actually showed Sydney with the little girl - and how gentle and different he was around her then with anyone else. Because that was adorable.
|"God bless Mama and Papa and Grandpapa.... And Sydney. I don't think he'll ask You for himself.|
*Little Lucie is Lucie's daughter.
I really love the scene in the musical where Carton comes over for Christmas (on Lucie's invitation) and receives a present from Lucie. And he is really touched and because he was not expecting a gift, especially not one from her, and he says thank you with this shy little kiss ... and it's so. freakin. sad. BECAUSE SHE IS IN LOVE WITH CHARLES AND HE WILL NEVER EVER BE HAPPY.
|"There is something I would like to give you."|
So... There were a few elements from the book that I wish they could have kept in the musical. Like the bit near the end where Sydney is walking and praying.... "I am the Life and the Resurrection,.." That whole sequence was heartbreaking and I think it would have been cool to do something with it in the musical.
On the other hand though, I loved the song "Let Her Be A Child," which took the place of that. It was essentially the same thing. Sydney is all alone and he is faced with a frightening decision and he is scared and unsure ... and then it's like he hears Little Lucie saying her night prayers and he remembers why he has to follow through with his plans. And he prays with her for courage to do what he has to in order to keep the ones he loves safe. It is SAD. IT HURTS.
|"Now, I lay me down to sleep..."|
Overall, I enjoy listening to the musical rather than reading the book. It is a lot more fun to witness the story on stage then it is on paper - and I think this is the way with a lot of classics. They work better as a play or a movie. I was lucky because I heard the musical (many times) before reading the book and I was already familiar with the story, so it was easier for me to follow along. But there were still moments where I got confused and had to re-read a few paragraphs. And there was one scene where this character suddenly appeared in the room and I had no idea when he had shown up or why he was there - but at this point I was getting close to the sad Sydney parts so I decided it didn't matter and kept reading.
SO! What it all comes down to is this; I really liked the the book, I liked it a lot. It was a fantastic story and I would definitely read it again. But it helped that I had heard the musical and already loved the story. Otherwise I don't know if I would have enjoyed it so much. (Because the musical is the greatest thing ever. I LOVE IT SO MUCH!)
|#reading the end of the book|
I think it is a shame that not many people have read A Tale of Two Cities. And I think it is even a bigger shame that is closed on Broadway so fast. I firmly believe it deserves a second chance. It would be fabulous to see it return to Broadway and I would go see it in a heartbeat. ( But could we also please get James Barbour back as Sydney? Thank you.) .... Maybe I'll start a petition for the release of the Stage Version on DVD.
Oh. That is a good Idea!
What are your thoughts on A Tale of Two Cities? Have you ever listened to it or read it? Do you know the story? What do you think of it?
With that I leave you with this FABULOUS trailer over which you can drool.....
And then you can watch this trailer (Which is the copy I have) and you will understand why I want to start a petition and get another DVD.
*Say... If I start a Petiton, would you help me??
PEACE OUT Y'ALL!!!!!
*swings around cape and leaps off stage*