After finishing 'A Tale Of Two Cities', Dickens said "it has greatly moved and excited me in the doing". One of his most haunting novels, it has, since its first serial publication in 1859, continued to exert a grip on the popular imagination. Set mainly during the French Revolution in a lethal, vengeful Paris and a leafy, tranquil London, the two cities of the title are only one of the novel's stark dichotomies, which are continued as Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay are drawn towards their separate destinies - their lives touched by the same woman.
In his absorbing introduction, Richard Maxwell discusses the novel's intricate design, in which Dickens magnificently interweaves epic drama with personal tragedy. Comparing it to Carlyle's 'French Revolution' and Hugo's 'Les Miserables', Maxwell argues that 'A Tale Of Two Cities' "stands as Dickens's most memorable effort to see a world in a very small space; a work short by its nature . . . yet curiously at its ease among giants".