Revolution – by Jennifer Donnelly
This book came to me highly recommended by colleagues at work. I made the mistake of starting it after I’d just finished my last book, looking to cement myself a few pages into another world before I went to sleep. Which I eventually did, about two hours later than I had intended! This is why:
Andi isn’t doing so well. Her family fell apart after a tragedy that none of them speak about. Her Dad left, her Mum doesn’t talk any more, painting in silence all day instead, and Andi’s left alone. Alone with her guilt. Andi’s always blamed herself for what happened, and can’t forgive herself for it. Time isn’t helping. In fact, Andi’s not sure she deserves time at all, and some days it’s a struggle not to just end it, and stop feeling like this.
When her Dad takes her to Paris so he can keep an eye on his estranged, angry, miserable daughter, Andi stumbles across an incredible find – a diary kept by a young girl called Alexandrine. A girl who lived through one of France’s bloodiest and most infamous periods: the French Revolution. Alex’s story is as addictive as it is horrifying, and Andi soon becomes closer to this long-dead girl than she has been to anyone in a long time. As she becomes more invested in Alex’s fate, Andi becomes involved in a way no one could have anticipated with the events of that tear-stained time.
WOW. I was not prepared for how amazing Revolution is. Andi is a beautifully realised character, a broken young girl who feels so alone and yet is so easily understood by the reader. She blames herself for what happened to the family, but her father blames himself as well. The relationship between these two reserved, hurt, angry people has notes that would feel familiar to any girl who’s fought with their parents and had trouble communicating. It’s just as familiar, I imagine, for a parent trying so hard to understand their child while dealing with their own anger, guilt and pain.
Alexandrine is just as vivid as Andi, speaking to her as she does to the reader through her journal. She has so much ambition, hope and determination that later give way to fear and loyalty she never expected to feel. She is forced to think about what is important, and what she’s willing to risk: because the streets of Paris were safe for no-one in Revolutionary France. Alex and Andi form a potent bond, in spite of connecting only through one girl’s writing – something that’s all too easily understood, given that the same thing happens to a reader when you read a book with wonderful characters!
The other main strength of this book is the huge amount of research Donnelly has done, which shores up the plot with a wealth of information. Everything from the music that Andi turns to in order to escape her own head, to the details of DNA testing that Andi’s father is conducting in Paris, to the exploration of the motives behind the major players of the French Revolution is seamlessly included in the novel. This is generous and powerful of Donnelly, as it lets the reader learn more about these topics as they read and at the same time makes the world she’s created that much more real. One of my favourite aspects of this book was coming out of it with a greater knowledge of Revolutionary France and music in general than I had had before.
This was a fantastic book. The storylines were engrossing, the characters my friends, and the settings and research so vivid that I feel as though I’ve been to Paris for the last couple of days, or even that I was there during the Terror. A must read.
Have you read anything by Jennifer Donnelly? If not, what are you waiting for?!
*Because I’m Australian, so it’ll always be Mum, okay?