Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review: Revolution

Title/Author:  Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Published:  Random House, 2010

Source:  Purchased myself for my nook

Why I Read It: I've heard such great things about the book!

Rating: 4 stars

Summary (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.

Review:

Let me start off by saying that I learned a lot about the French Revolution from this book.  Honestly, I didn’t remember much about it from history classes I’ve taken.  The Revolution was a scary time for the people of France.  Thousands of people had to unfortunate pleasure of being guillotined.  There are literally thousands of people buried below the streets of Paris.  If I ever make it to Paris I will probably get a little freaked out thinking about that while walking down a street!

Jennifer Donnelly did a fantastic job bringing the past and present together.  For me, the book started off a little slow, partly because I expected to be introduced to Alex sooner.  The reader is in Andi’s head throughout the book.  We’re aware of Alex’s story by reading her diary- the one Andi finds hidden in a guitar case.  

Andi is a girl who has been through a lot in the past two years.  She witnessed her little brother being hit by a car.  Then her family falls apart, she always feels numb from antidepressants, her mother is going crazy, her father is never around, she’s in danger of not graduating high school and the only thing that’s keeping Andi afloat is music.  Her father takes her to Paris for winter break and he hopes that by getting away it will help Andi heal some.

Alex is a girl who lived during the Revolution in France in the 1790’s.  Her family never had enough to eat, her father had been jailed many times for speaking out against the king, her sister was pregnant with no husband, the family put on puppet shows as a way to make a living and they heard there was plenty of food at Versailles and that going to Paris would solve all of their problems.  Sadly, they were mistaken.  

Louis-Charles, the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, is an important part in Alex’s story.  By reading Alex’s diary, Louis-Charles also becomes an essential part of Andi’s story.  Andi’s father is in Paris to do genetic testing on a heart that is believed to belong to Louis-Charles.  During the Revolution he was imprisoned in a tower under poor conditions.  There were rumors that he escaped and that a dead body was left in the tower for his captors to find.  No one knew for sure if Louis-Charles really escaped or if he died while imprisoned.  

In 2000, the heart really did undergo genetic testing.  Scientists tested the heart’s mitochondrial DNA and it was concluded that the heart belonged to Louis-Charles, the lost king of France.  I find it fascinating that in 1795 they were able to preserve the heart so well.  Well enough that 205 years later it could still be tested on and get accurate results.  You can read more about it here and here.

And that is your brief history lesson for the day.  

Back to the book.  I really enjoyed the story.  Sometimes I was getting confused with Alex’s diary entries so make sure you pay attention to the dates.  The next time I see fireworks going off (illegally) I’ll be wondering if they are for one specific person to see, and to know that they are not forgotten.

I was listening to the radio the other day and I heard the song "Firework" by Katy Perry.  I'm not usually a fan of her songs but I thought this particular one fit perfectly with Andi and especially Alex:

5 comments:

Daisy said...

I'm really glad you liked it! I ordered it two weeks ago, so it should be getting here pretty soon.
We've been over the French Revolution in my history class in high school, but I'm ashamed to say I don't remember a lot of it. I didn't know there were people buried under the streets of Paris! That's a bit creepy..

Kelly A. said...

Hmmm, that's an interesting (creepy) bit of history! The French Revolution is a bit like WWII for me, I just get so sad reading about it! But since I do love Jennifer Donnelly so much I must check this out!

Jen said...

It is really creepy! If you Google "catacombs Paris" some really creepy images come up.

Jayme @ Horribly Bookish said...

This is such a good book! I picked it up at the library, not thinking I would even get to it and it turned out to be one of the best I read in 2010.

Kelly F. said...

Fireworks the video is perfect for the book, it sound probably be it's own theme song lol!