Thoughts on books, family, and life in one impressive package.

Book Cover Image: Revolution by Jennifer DonnellyTitle: Revolution

Author: Jennifer Donnelly

Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books): “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.”

Thoughts: Historical fiction should be just that – a blend of fact and fiction done in such a way that makes history easy to understand. Revolution does not only that, it brings history alive. It is a perfect blend of history and fiction to the point where it is impossible to distinguish between the two. One can smell the unwashed bodies, the fear and panic associated with the Terror, the sewage from 1790 Paris. Better yet, it is unlike any French Revolution novel previously read. It not only focuses on the politics behind the Revolution but also presents the human side, how panic and hunger fueled the rage and impacted the anonymous individual in addition to the nobles. It is a fresh look at an old history lesson.

Andi truly makes Revolution. She is a remarkable, talented young woman who is in so much pain that her distress is unbearable, as is her struggle to survive. Her inability to find the music towards the end is enough to reduce the reader to tears. The guilt behind her brother’s death, her inability to escape the depression that has wracked her since then, her fractured relationships with friends and family – they all help to bring to life a woman who wants to survive but is facing the ultimate battle to do so. The reader fights her fight, feels her pain, and suffers alongside Andi.

This connection to Andi, and Andi’s subsequent connection to Alexandrine makes for a unique reader experience. Breathtaking in its scope and attention to detail, the reader becomes completely immersed into Andi and Alex’s experiences. The line between the two heroines blurs many a time. Better yet, their experiences and understanding of those experiences sheds new light on the political implications of revolution in general and the ongoing battle for liberty, equality, and fraternity. Can one person truly make a difference? Does the world always win?

Revolution has been garnering much praise, and it is completely worth all the superlatives. It leaves a reader aching in pain, breathless with worry and more importantly, thoughtful about certain “well-known” history lessons. Its combination of old and new, demonstrated through Alex and Andi, modern-day Paris and the Paris of old, as well as Andi’s thesis on the evolution of music connects history and its impact in a way not typically considered. Add to that, Andi’s emotional turmoil and the end result is a novel that touches a reader to the core and fundamentally changes the way a reader views life. Revolution is a definite must-read and will rank among the top reads for 2010, if not all time.

I received this novel from the publisher at the 2010 GLIBA trade show.

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