Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Revolution - Jennifer Donnelly

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.

This was a fascinating book on so many levels.  First of all, I love studying about the French Revolution.  It was a sad, bloody, horrifying time in history with so many different layers of political and social intrigue.  I can't help but think of the story, The Lord of the Flies, which demonstrated the mob mentality that a group of people (in that case children) can fall under when there is nothing to prevent personal desires from overriding morals.  Revolution and its subject matter really reminded me of that.  You could tell how much research Jennifer Donnelly put into this book.  It was rich with detail, and she succeeded amazingly at putting you directly into the setting and making you feel like you were really there.

As far as the protagonist, Andi, is concerned...it would have been very easy not to like her.  Handled by a less talented author, Andi would have come across as a little whiny and self-pitying, but Donnelly weaved this character so well, that Andi came across as tortured and beaten, but oddly strong at the same time.  The journey this character travels internally is amazing, complex and up-lifting.  The other main character, Alex, was equally complex and travels an equally awakening journey.  She changes from a self-absorbed, ambitious girl to a selfless one who will do anything to show love to a doomed and imprisoned prince. 

Aside from the characters themselves, Donnelly deserves recognition for her writing style and the beauty of her language.  She even managed to make Andi's internal narrative come out with an almost poetic loveliness, while still managing to make her sound like a disturbed 17 year old girl.  Amazing.

If you have not read this book, I highly recommend it.  It was a true accomplishment, and well worth the read.

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