A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (a Librivox free audio book)
I know this is news to nobody except me but I just finished listening to this tale of love and hate, evil and redemption, and noble sacrifice in the midst of the French revolution. I mean to say I was literally riveted by the last two chapters and brought to sudden, unexpected tears by the last sentences of the book.
I think I have been overexposed to Oliver Twist and Great Expectations, both through being forced to read them in school and watching seemingly endless movie adaptations. In the midst of all that overexposure I never realized Dickens' ability to slyly imply humor, twist a plot like a pretzel in delightful ways, and, in short, tell a heck of a thumping good story.
I was totally intrigued by the fact that Dickens was giving us a series of contrasts in that way ... nobility versus selfishness, love versus hate, abuse of power over those who are powerless ... and then FLIPS it completely (almost) in the second part of the book. The hated noblemen become the powerless victims, the poor peasants become a bloodthirsty, mindless mob ... Characters who seem so kindly and reasonable and then filled with blood lust and hatred ... someone who was presented as a buffoon who I blew off and then shows unexpected depths. All the contrasts of human nature, the heights and depths to which we can rise or fall ... and he shows that many of us are capable of all of it. Not all of his characters are so changeable but it is a fascinating look at human nature. AND he did it while concocting cliffhangers for the newspaper serials! I have to take my hat off to him. Wow!
What a delightful discovery. I will definitely be reading more Dickens.