Our visions of the French Revolution have been much coloured by Dicken’s narrative. An arch construction and mature work, he takes his time to build up the edifices of this story, providing peaks and valleys that pay off when the conflagaration of the storming of the Bastille and the consequent terror take place. The cast of vilains and heroes is well put together, the personal descriptions and the motivations well drawn.
The back and forth between England and France, between nobility and laity, between freedom (liberte) and prison and the possibility of death, justice and coldhearted injustice. The image that lingers is Madame Desfarges knitting, observing at once and calculating with her husband in the wine shop and waiting to take implacable vengeance with axes, knives and the sainte Guillotine. The last book is remarkable in the way all the strands come together and the ultimate sacrifices are made by the unlikeliest of heroes. Visions of the revolution wrought in blood.