Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Revolution

Author: Jennifer Donnelly

Published: October 12th, 2010

Number of Pages: 496

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis:

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. [From Goodreads]

Quote (and because I can’t resist, you get three quotes!):

I don’t like hope very much. In fact, I hate it. It’s the crystal meth of emotions. It hooks you fast and kills you hard. It’s bad news. The worst. It’s sharp sticks and cherry bombs. When hope shows up, it’s only a matter of time until someone gets hurt.

There is only one thing I fear now-love. For I have seen it and I have felt it and I know that it is love, not death, that undoes us.

Cry your grief to God. Howl to the heavens. Tear your shirt. Your hair. Your flesh. Gouge out your eyes. Carve out your heart. And what will you get from Him? Only silence. Indifference. But merely stand looking at the playbills, sighing because your name is not on them, and the devil himself appears at your elbow full of sympathy and suggestions. And that’s why I did it….Because God loves us, but the devil takes an interest.

Review (which I encourage you to read, though the quotes above are evidence enough that you should read the book):

I received a copy of this beautiful book last October, just days before the release date. You’d think I would have read it already – after all, who can resist something so obviously focused on France? – but the size of this thing! It was daunting. However, after all the fabulous things I’ve heard about Revolution in the past few months, I couldn’t pass it on my way into my room without stopping, picking it up, and apparently, devouring it.

Revolution is a striking book. It exceeds expectations in almost every imaginable way. The setting, the premise, the mystery, the characters, the complex relationships and wild range of emotions – every aspect of a good book is magnified, improved, steroidal.

First of all: FRANCE.

Yes, in all caps. FRANCE.

This book has a lot of it. Not the language, really, but the feel, the atmosphere, the setting, foods, and history – it’s all so very French. I learned so much from this book without feeling like I was being taught. I eagerly looked forward to every bit of historical information. This book gives you the French Revolution so up close and personal you can see the blood staining the guillotine.

The main character, Andi, is phenomenal. I loved that her deep misery and biting attitude took root in something worthy of such terrible aftershock. Once I understood what she and her family had gone through, I could comprehend and sympathize with her general instability and the different ways her family members grieve. Her past literally haunts her, but that terrible past also does just what it was meant to – it molds her. She might be desperate and miserable at the beginning of the book, but it soon became evident that the horrors she struggles through have a purpose. Andi’s such an intricate person, and I found she’s incredibly likable for someone so rugged.

Relationships are the core of Revolution. All sorts of them. Father-daughter, siblings, friendship. There’s reluctant love, dutiful love, lack of love, romantic love, and just about every other type you can come up with. It’s such a dark and mysterious book, so I was surprised to think back and realize that it really does revolve around love. Andi’s relationships are so strained you’re waiting for them to reach their limit and snap – heck, you’re waiting for her to snap. There’s such contrast between, say, her relationship with her father and that with her little brother, but both of them play crucial roles.

Honestly, though, it wouldn’t be fair to focus solely on Andi, her story, and her relationships because this book is as much about Alex, the doomed teenage girl of the eighteenth century, as it is about Andi. Alex’s story begins with the end. You know instantly that she’s walking a tight rope while wind is crashing against her. She doesn’t have much time left, yet she’s bursting with the need to write down all that she’s gone through, particularly her relationship with Louis-Charles, or the lost prince of France. Alex is Louis-Charles’ companion and is charged with keeping his spirits up by the queen herself. Alex’s story takes place during the French Revolution, so clearly being charged with the happiness of the prince isn’t in her best interests.

Though Alex’s story is the more suspenseful of the two and I’m sure I was meant to be completely enthralled, her story is actually the only thing I had trouble with. I was definitely, definitely, DEFINITELY interested. Her diary is stuffed with gloriously fascinating bits of French history, retellings of horrific events, cunning people, and a beautifully told love story (not a romantic one). I wish I could tell you what it was that simply didn’t cut it for me, but I can’t. Alas, all I know for sure is that I found myself occasionally waiting her entries out, excited to get back to Andi. I have no idea why this was the case, but it was.

(I’m looking at the word count of this review now and freaking out. How on earth can I include everything I want to? A super long book requires a long review! Bear with me, please.)

The most delectable thing about Revolution is the way it’s all done. This book would have amounted to so much less in the hands of someone else. Jennifer Donnelly’s prose and style transform this book from an interesting story to a magnificent one. There are lines that I couldn’t resist reading to my mother. There are lines that made me stop and reread. I love it when I come across a book that just wows me and reminds me why I love words with the passion that I do. They have impact. They have force. They can make you feel and experience things you’d never have felt or experienced otherwise.

I’ll admit that the fact there’s some time-travel in the book escaped me. I suppose I knew it at one point, but I was definitely taken by surprise when Andi suddenly wound up in 1795. Not the sort of thing you expect after four-fifths of the book has passed with her snug in the twenty-first century. However, it was a sweet surprise to have the book take an unexpected turn so late in the game. My favorite character was suddenly in my favorite era! It was a little odd, but definitely a fun little romp. (That was the understatement of the week.)

Oh my goodness! Have I not yet mentioned there’s a love story (a romantic one this time)? What? No! My bad. Those of you who were losing interest due to the lack of mushiness, come back! There is indeed a love story, and it is, indeed, awesome. It’s simple, relatively smooth, and is everything you’d want it to be. The romantic plotline does include the only super predictable and cliché moment, but I think every book should be allowed one. The boy also has a really neat name (bonus!).

Revolution is, well, revolutionary. I reveled in every moment. Beautiful passage on top of beautiful passage, heart-wrenching moment on heart-wrenching moment, Jennifer Donnelly has constructed a story – wait, no, two stories – so captivating that 472 pages feels like 150.

9 Commentsto “Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly; Review”

  1. Madeleine why are you so much better at expressing love for books than I am?!!! xD Loooove this review, but you already know how much I adore this book. I agree with EVERYTHING, especially (especially!!) how incredible Donnely's writing is. I've been thinking a lot about rereading favourite books and actually marking them etc, and I know if I ever did that, this book would be very near the top of thelist, it's like I just want to quote EVERYTHING. Love what you wrote about the relationships as well, plus the France setting. I wanna go to france!! =) Fantastic review.

    • You're too sweet! But thank you. 😉 I felt exactly the same about the quoting! Why can't I memorize the whole 500-page book!? (Psst! I bought A NORTHERN LIGHT today! I can't wait to read it.)

  2. Well, you have astounded me in your absolute love for the paper, ink and binding that are books. I have been waiting this review for days! I am so ready for a book like that right now I am DYING of impatience and well, desire to eat up a period/modern novel set in France. Wait, let me say that again, PERIOD/MODERN NOVEL SET IN FRANCE!!! Has there been six more perfect words? AHHH! I want to read that book!

  3. I just loved this book and couldn't agree more on how amazing it was! I actually didn't know about the time-travel and was really confused so I had to re-read it a couple times. Loved it though and the different amounts of love and relationships. I wish I could remember his name but yeah he had a cool name 🙂

    *I'm your 100th follower 😀 I found your cute blog through Audrey.

    • AWESOME!! Thank so much for following! (And doesn't Audrey rock? ;D)I'm thrilled that you liked Revolution. I know it sounds odd, but once I've loved a book, I feel like it's a part of me – part of my personality, you know? So it's always wonderful when others love it as much as I do.

  4. I loved this book as well. I thought it was awesome and made for an interesting read. I believe she has a tour coming to CT this August and I can't wait to meet her.

  5. I don't think the time travel was time travel! It was the biggest of of a whole series of weird Quell-induced fugues Andi falls into over the course of the book. Or maybe it was time travel — it doesn't matter! I think the point is Andi/Alex are one character (did you notice their full names are an anagram?) living the same sad story that repeats itself over and over and over. That's what makes their (shared) epiphany so freaking unbelievably earth-shattering. It changed my life. I now look at the world a different way. It goes on, stupid and brutal. But I do not. I do not.

  6. my god, what is it with this book and having to write ginormous reviews to express how amazeballs? i went through the same friggin ordeal meself 😀

    anyway, i agree with pretty much everything you said, especially this: I found myself occasionally waiting her entries out, excited to get back to Andi. i''ve no idea why either. just that i was. 😀

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