As anyone who knows me well can confirm, I am an avid reader. I am also an eclectic reader so I read classic, current and past bestsellers, mystery novels, romance, speculative fiction, biographies, a little horror and various non-fiction. I read books and stories and articles and of course I read newspapers. That old habit will never leave me. I can remember attempting to read the paper when I was too small to hold up the pages that seemed quite large in my child's hands. I wanted to read the morning newspaper because my grandparents did, every day with great interest and so did my parents.

As anyone who knows me well can confirm, I am an avid reader. I am also an eclectic reader so I read classic, current and past bestsellers, mystery novels, romance, speculative fiction, biographies, a little horror and various non-fiction. I read books and stories and articles and of course I read newspapers. That old habit will never leave me. I can remember attempting to read the paper when I was too small to hold up the pages that seemed quite large in my child's hands. I wanted to read the morning newspaper because my grandparents did, every day with great interest and so did my parents.

 

Charles Dickens remains on my list of favorite authors and his novels are among those that I re-read on occasion, always finding both the familiarity of an old friend and some new insight as well.

Although Dickens is better known today for his holiday classic, "A Christmas Carol" or perhaps "Oliver Twist", one of my favorite Dickens' novels is "A Tale of Two Cities".

 

Dickens is noted for having written realistic fiction about the poor, exposing facets of life that some readers of the day might have preferred not to face. "A Tale of Two Cities" is no different, perhaps, except the story spans the English Channel from London to Paris. It also tells the story, through Dickens view, of the French Revolution. Published in 1859, 65 years after the end of the French Revolution, "A Tale of Two Cities" is a gripping tale.

 

For those who haven't read it - but should - I won't reveal the entire plot or give spoilers but I will say that the novel has the most powerful lines at the beginning and end.

The opening words of the novel seem as fitting today as they did when Dickens penned them, despite the many years that have passed and changes that have occured in daily life.

 

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." - Dickens, from "A Tale of Two Cities". The reason I find these words so relevant is that human nature remains the same. Whether it's the best of times or the worst is a matter of perspective, whether it's in our own lives, in our nation, or in the world today. Anyone who spends any time at all on social media sites knows all too well how quick many are to judge, how divided our country is and how easy the seemingly simplest statement can escalate into name calling or open fight. That the human race hasn't advanced in more than a hundred and fifty years could be a reason for sorrow or despair because it sometimes seems as a society we are mired in darkness. But, the ending words from the novel, the last words of Sydney Carton, who gives his life in place of another for love (if you want to know more, read the book!), who says: "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known," as he faces the guillotine. Readers who want to escape from the present day or touch a common human chord from the past will enjoy Dickens, as I do. As a writer, I can only hope that my words might stand the test of time as long as those of Charles Dickens.

Lee Ann Murphy writes a column for the Neosho Daily News and is a staff writer for the paper.