Source: LoudLit / Literal Systems (direct link)
Reader: Jane Aker
Length: 16 hrs, 15 min
The book: Usually, I find Charles Dickens too sentimental for my tastes. A Tale of Two Cities is my favorite Dickens book because he gives his characters some depth and sets them in an interesting time. Typical of Dickens' work, there's still the extremes of the supremely good Lucie and supremely bad Madam Defarge, but he also throws in characters in shades of gray, like Monsieur Defarge and Sydney Carton.
The plot is doled out piecemeal, as is normal for serial novels, with a go-nowhere subplot about one of Lucie's suitors taking up too much space in the middle of the novel. I also found the chapters about Jerry to be tedious and full of supposed humor regarding wife abuse. Once the action moves to France, however, the pace picks up and I found myself doing a few more laps at the gym to find out what would happen to Charles, Lucie and the doctor.
The historical background is, of course, the French Revolution. I'm not sure how much actual research Dickens did into time period beyond what was generally known in the history books. I don't have a good handle on the historical events of the Revolution in all its complexity and contradictions, so I can't really comment on his verisimilitude. Dickens' portrayal, however accurate, of the persecution of the poor by the rich and the resulting bloodthirstiness of the Reign of Terror trials is something that will stick in my mind.
The reader: Jane Akers is a marvelous narrator. She speaks at a slow pace with clear enunciation. She performs a wide variety of accents for the characters which makes Dickens' often difficult dialect much easier to understand. The recording is professionally done at a studio with no background noise or hiss.