I read The Tale of Two Cities in my 8th grade English class. Our wise teacher chose to read the entire book out loud with us. We each had a copy and took turns reading, with her occasionally reading too and explaining vocabulary and the complicated plot. It was such a powerful experience for me that I chose to repeat it with my oldest daughter when she was about that same age. She and I sat on the couch each day reading together. I still remember the last chapter when the surprise ending is about to be revealed. I knew it was coming, but she didn’t. She was bravely reading out loud, confident in how this tragic story would conclude. And then, WHAM!
She burst into tears! I saw again the power of sharing great literature with young people.
The Two Cities are London and Paris; the setting is the French Revolution. It is a dangerous time for anyone connected with certain wealthy families in France. Gangs wander the streets, mock trials rule the day and the guillotine ends many a guilty — and innocent — life.
Charles Darnay and his wife Lucie have just such a connection. They have escaped France and are quietly living with their young daughter and Lucie’s father in London. But one day a former family servant begs Charles to return to France and rescue him from prison. Charles feels duty-bound to help and sneaks back into France, only to find himself arrested and sentenced to death by the revolutionaries. Can Lucie figure out where Charles is being held and rescue him before he too is lead to the guillotine? Who can possibly help her in her time of desperation?
Charles Dickens’ writing, although difficult, is so worth the effort! Reading great literature out loud together with your teen is one of the best experiences. I highly recommend it! Make sure you each have a copy of the book and take turns reading so you both stay alert. Reading out loud is a learned skill, one that every teen is blessed to gain — and what a help to practice it in the safety of your home with your mom or dad, rather than in a classroom where the risk of failure can be very great.
High School grade reading level, 352 pages, French Revolution, Published in 1859.