A Far Better Rest

Trade paperback and eBook
Publisher: Bella Rosa Books (October 29, 2010)
Paper List: $14.95
eBook: NOW $2.99
ISBN-10: 1933523921
ISBN-13: 978-1933523927

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 story 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.

All inquiries about translation, reprint, audio, or
film/​TV rights should be directed to Susanne's agent:

Cristina Concepcion
Don Congdon Associates
110 William St., Suite 2202
New York, NY 10038

212 645 1229 phone
212 727 2688 fax

What the reviewers said in 2000:

"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 Collège 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 Eléonore.

"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."
--Publishers Weekly

"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."
--Library Journal

“Sydney Carton, the brooding hero of A Tale of Two Cities, is one of Dickens’ best creations. In her first novel, Alleyn has taken Sydney as her central character and imagined his entire life. As in Tale, fate links Carton’s path with those of Charles Darnay and Lucie Manette but also with that of many historical figures, such as Desmoulins and Robespierre. After the marriage of Darnay and Lucie, Carton goes off to France, expecting to live an idle life there as well but instead gets caught up in the French Revolution, first by writing for a revolutionary journal and later by being elected to the French National Convention. He even finds love again with a cousin of Darnay named Eléonore. There are some discrepancies between this novel and Tale, and Alleyn takes some liberties with Dickens’ characters, but she tells a very good story. Best read alongside Tale, Alleyn’s novel gives a vivid picture of the development of the French Revolution through the eyes of that wonderful hero despite himself, Sydney Carton.”

"'To-day they guillotined Danton; and with him died the fragile dream of Clemency, and all my hopes and prayers.'

"So opens Susanne Alleyn's debut novel A Far Better Rest, described on the back cover as 'A reimagining of Charles Dickens' classic novel A Tale of Two Cities.' In the hands of a less skilled writer, this book could have been a disappointment or worse, yet Ms. Alleyn succeeds admirably.

"Told from Sydney Carton's point of view in a journal written during the weeks before his execution, the novel tells the same story as the Dickens original, but on an intensely more personal level. One by one Carton introduces the reader to the main characters as he reflects on his life's journey from Georgian England to Revolutionary Paris.

"This novel is engrossing right from the start. The author uses a slightly archaic form of English that is easy to understand and read, yet evocative of the turbulent period in which the story is set.

"Though we only see the characters through Carton's eyes, they are nevertheless well-rounded and thoroughly captivating. Of special interest to this reviewer were the brief glimpses of Charlotte Corday and her eventual victim, Jean-Paul Marat. Meeting these and other historical figures in such an informal setting was an added pleasure. Among the most appealing of the fictional characters were Carton's friend Molly, Darnay's daughter Lucie-Anne and Darnay's cousin, Eléonore. They lived, breathed and touched the heart.

"As for setting, Ms. Alleyn brings the period to life, especially those scenes set on the streets of Paris during the key events of the Revolution such as the attack on the Bastille and the preparations for the Festival of Federation. The reader sees, hears and smells the past and is, in effect, transported back in time.

"I highly recommend A Far Better Rest, not only for fans of Dickens wanting to see the story told in a different way, but for anyone interested in the French Revolution and how it affected the lives of so many people. Though literary in nature, this novel appeals to the heart and soul and left this reader haunted by its wonderful characters, most notably its hero, Sydney Carton."
--The Historical Novels Review (UK)

Online Reviews & Recommendations

"When I was round about 12 years old, I developed an obsession with a certain older man. He wasn't perfect, by any means, no--rather low in the self-esteem department, somewhat carelessly dressed, and of questionable social reputation. Truth be told, he was something of an alcoholic. In fact, one might have called him a 'disappointed drudge'. . . ."

Matinee idol John Martin-Harvey as Carton in The Only Way,
the 1899 stage adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities

Selected Works

Standalone Historical Novels:
Biographical fiction about Charles-Henri Sanson, Paris's public executioner
A reimagining of Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities
An annotated edition of Charles Dickens's classic novel.
A Writer’s (and Editor’s) Guide to Keeping Historical Fiction Free of Common Anachronisms, Errors, and Myths
The Aristide Ravel French Revolution Mysteries:
Book 1 of the Ravel Mysteries

Quick Links

Find Authors