Saturday 21 July 2012

Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Source: Audiobook and borrowed from the library

Synopsis from Goodreads:
BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.

Jennifer Donnelly, author of the award-winning novel A Northern Light, artfully weaves two girls’ stories into one unforgettable account of life, loss, and enduring love. Revolution spans centuries and vividly depicts the eternal struggles of the human heart.

This book was absolutely amazing! It had me alternately crying, laughing, gripped on the edge of my seat in anticipation, and in awe of its beautiful writing.

At the start of the book, I really didn't like Andi at all- she is a bit of a spoiled brat, and mopes about in an attention-seeking way. She is depressed and lost, and angrily takes it out on the rest of the world. I loved her as a character, but I didn't like her personality (if that makes sense!).

She needed to be a pill-popping angry depressed teenager to show how much she grows and changes through her journey. It is only when she is taken out of the poisonous atmosphere of her exclusive high school, with it's drinking and drug-taking, and is taken to Paris with her Dad, that she really comes back to herself, and we see how smart, and normal she is.

When she finds the diary of a young street actress from the time of the French Revolution she becomes completely entranced by her story and lost in the world of the court of the French Revolution. I loved the mystery around the young prince and the gradual unravelling of this second storyline through the diary.

In 1795 Alexandrine, a poor singer and theatre player, gets a job working at the palace and is caught up right in the middle of the events as they unfold. Her position gives her an insight into the full spectrum of that society, from the Royal family right down to the street beggars. She knows some of the secrets of the time- like who sets the forbidden fireworks off into the sky and influenced the composer Malherbeau, and she is the one who through her diary can possibly tell Andi what finally happened to the lost prince. Her tale is hauntingly heart-breaking.

Andi has had a very difficult time since her brother's death, and hasn't had anyone to lean on. Her mother completely fell apart and refuses to leave the house, and Andi has had to be the one to care for her. Her Dad only focuses on work and doesn't even notice her until she stops doing well at school.

Initially, all Andi wants is to quickly finish her school project so that she can bribe her Dad to let her go back home, but gradually she begins to recognise where she is, and she becomes so engrossed with not only her own research but also with what happened to to Alex and Louis-Charles, and her Dad's scientific approach to finding out the truth.

She also gets distracted by a certain musician she befriends on her travels. Virgil is a great character that definitely adds an edge to the story, but isn't a focal point in it. Actually there are so many wonderful minor characters that enrich the background of the story.

I just loved the way that all the threads of the story were all connected and subtly intertwined. Everything that is going on in Andi's life, from her fascination of the (fictional) composer Malherbeau, to her Dad's research into genetics, her brother's death years before, to her reading of Alex's diary and the events of hundreds of years ago- it is all cleverly linked and tied together. I was dying to find out the truth of what had happened to Alex and the young prince Louis-Charles, and always wanted to keep reading just a little bit more, to have the mystery solved.

The other thing that I really enjoyed was the fact that although the author has obviously done a lot of research into the French Revolution, it never comes across a lecture about that time period, and I never got a feeling that all the research was being shoved into the story in a "look at all this stuff I've found out" way. Rather, it is just there as a part of the story telling, and written seamlessly into the narrative. I feel like I learned a lot from this book more because of how Andi's passion and enthusiam for music, her Dad's passion for science and research, and Guillaume's passion for French history, came through so well, and their passion was just infectious.

Vivid and completely captivating- no review can do the genius of this book justice. Donnelly has managed to mesh a gripping historical novel and an emotional contemporary story with a complex multi-layered plot.

Alternate covers:

<-- The US hardback cover. I love this cover- showing the flip sides of the two different stories being told by two very remote women who are linked through the diary. This is also exactly as I imagine Andi to look.
The UK paperback cover. I really love this cover as well, it's very eye-catching. 

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant review! I loved this one and honestly couldnt put it down, I'm trying to get everyone I know to read it too!!


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