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Susanne Alleyn

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Historical Fiction

Publisher:  Bella Rosa Books ISBN-10:  1933523921 Type: 


Copyright:  October 29, 2010 ISBN-13:  9781933523927

A reimagining of Charles Dickens's classic novel A Tale of Two Cities from the point of view of anti-hero Sydney Carton.

Barnes &
Susanne Alleyn

The French Revolution is vividly brought to life in a brilliant retelling of the classic story that has captured the imagination of readers since the 1850s.

In Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, Sydney Carton is an almost ancillary character. Dickens' novel tells us the stories of Charles Darnay, Lucie Manette, and Alexandre Manette. Carton disappears from the novel for eleven chapters and several years, reappearing without warning to bring the novel to its chilling and heartbreaking end. Yet Dickens is silent about the circumstances that transformed Carton from a promising youth to an embittered alcoholic and finally to the man who makes the ultimate sacrifice for love. A Far Better Rest imagines his missing personal history and makes him the center of this tragic tale.

Born in England of a wealthy, unloving father and a French mother, Sydney is sent to study in Paris, where he meets Charles Darnay and the other students--Robespierre and Camille Desmoulins among them--who will have enormous influence on his life and alter the course of French history. Years later, when Sydney, disinherited, is living a lonely and purposeless existence in London, Charles reenters his life. The beauty and kindness of Charles's wife, Lucie Manette, affects Sydney so deeply that he secretly devotes his life to her happiness.

At last abandoning London for Paris, Sydney becomes a witness to the formation of the French Republic at the end of the eighteenth century and also to one of the most turbulent periods in history. A Far Better Rest is a novel of passion, identity, and history that stands fully in its own right.  


16 Germinal, Year II of the Republic
5 April 1794 old style

To-day they guillotined Danton; and with him died the fragile dream of Clemency, and all my hopes and prayers. For if Danton the Colossus has succumbed to the Terror, this ravenous Goddess who has devoured or corrupted the best of France, what chance of enduring has any of us?

Wanting hope, two paths now stretch before me, one towards Love and the other towards Honour, and I know not which I should choose. For I made a solemn vow once to Lucie, and once again to myself this very day, and despite my many faults, I do not break my word. Yet the man who made that long-ago vow to Lucie was not the same man who writes these words to-day.

What a tangled path has led me to this moment, from my father’s country estate to the gin-shops and stews and back-alleys of London, from London to the salons and parliaments of Paris, and at last to this dreary Parisian lodging-house. Or perhaps my story truly began—as I think it shall end—not in England, not in my father’s fine brick mansion, but in Paris. Perhaps my path began to twist and turn, through the ravaged landscape of my life, on the day I met Charles Darnay.

Professional Reviews

from Publishers Weekly
Portraying a Paris full of political intrigue, lofty goals and lost hope, Alleyn's first novel re-imagines Dickens's classic A Tale of Two Cities, charting the events of the French Revolution and filling in the missing years in Sydney Carton's life. The stage is set in Paris, where narrator Carton is studying with such illustrious historical characters as Maximilien Robespierre and Camille Desmoulins. Another classmate at Coll?ge Louis-Le Grand is Carton's mirror image, Charles Darnay.

An unfortunate turn of events leads Carton to his native England, where he is severed from his inheritance by his emotionally distant father and begins leading a dissolute life of drinking and whoring, while halfheartedly pursuing a career in the law. He meets Lucie Manette, whose youth and beauty he idealizes, when, in 1780, he represents Darnay, now residing in England and accused of treason. Darnay is acquitted, and weds Lucie.

Eight years later, Carton returns to Paris on the eve of the revolution, and meets Darnay's cousin Eleonore. It is here that his life takes on meaning, and the novel acquires dramatic tension. From the fall of the Bastille to the Reign of Terror, the revolution's main players, both historical and fictional, are portrayed with skill and depth, making even such notorious figures as Robespierre comprehensible, if not sympathetic. Although the prose is encumbered with 18th-century vernacular, Alleyn's insightful storytelling and assiduous historical research create a richly textured, tragic tale that, in the tradition of the best historical novels, brings an era alive through the depiction of human drama.

from Library Journal
If it has been a while since you read Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, now you have a chance to reread it from the viewpoint of Sydney Carton. Beginning with Carton's childhood, debut novelist Alleyn fleshes out his character and makes his dying for Charles Darnay even more understandable than in the original. Having Carton write his life story while awaiting his date with the guillotine, Alleyn proposes that after Carton declares his love for Lucie Manette, he goes to France, sobers up, and becomes involved in French politics. The author follows the French Revolution through its increasingly violent stages as Carton tries to use his position to rescue his friends. With each failure, he again turns to alcohol, becoming more and more dependent until the opportunity comes to save Darnay. This well-written historical romance is recommended for all readers, especially those who have read the Dickens classic.

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