by Jennifer Donnelly
Release Date: October 12, 2010
2010 Delacorte Press
Hardcover Edition; 583 Pages
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
5 / 5 Stars
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.
The French Revolution has always held a particular fascination for me, so I was thrilled to be given the chance to review this novel. And it certainly did not disappoint as I was drawn into it right from the beginning and was swept up in the events, the people, and the times. I absolutely loved this novel.
I loved how the fate of Louis-Charles, the son of Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI was woven into this story so poignantly. His tragic story has always touched me so deeply, ever since I learned of the abuse he underwent at the hands of his prisoners and tormentors and the sadness I feel has not diminished over the years, no matter how often I read accounts of what happened. I especially feel for Marie-Antoinette and what she must have went through, knowing what was going to happen to her son, and the helplessness she felt. As a mother of a ten-year-old, and simply as a mother, my heart always has and will always go out to her and her little son. What stands out in my mind, is this quote in the novel from one of the bystanders and Andi's response.:
""That's right, of course," some else says,"Do you imagine that simply because one madman is gone, there are no more? Yes, Robespierre is dead. And Marat. Saint-Just. Hebert. But there are always more, waiting in the wings. History always throws off these power-hungry monsters. It's because of people like them that this little boy suffers.
And then I think of how these people, Amade's friends, amuse themselves all night long with mannered dances and witty conversation, shutting themselves off from the world, while a helpless child slowly dies.
And I say, "No, not because of Robespierre and Marat. Or people like them. Because of people like us."
It's quiet then." p.439
There is definitely a message in this story and I've always felt that a people would could storm Versailles and storm The Bastille could have saved Louis-Charles from his fate. Is it because people didn't really want to know what was happening or had they become so indifferent to death and suffering at this point in the Revolution that it just didn't matter? I also find it sad when Andi has to tell Amade that the Revolution hasn't really ended two hundred years later and all those deaths didn't serve a greater purpose in life. The question of how many times do we walk past human suffering and ignore it in our daily lives surfaces again and again in this novel and it really makes you think about social issues and the society in which you live. While I don't think the author meant for the reader to feel guilty about social issues, it still makes you question your own actions and how you have helped the cause in your own life.
I loved Andi as a principal character. She certainly had her faults as she was no person's concept of an ideal child at the beginning of the novel; she skipped school, had to take Qwell, was nasty to many people, and was suicidal. The only thing she really cared about was her mom and her music. But there was still something about her that I connected to immediately and identified with, a certain vulnerability that gave me hope that she would come out all right and made me care about her. Andi grew and developed quite a bit as the story developed and she took use right along with her, feeling all of her pain and emotions as she came to terms with the death of little brother and found inspiration in her music. I, for one, kept rooting for her every step of the way.
One of my favourites places in Paris, and one of the creepiest, is the Catacombes. To see those thousands of bodies (skeletons) down in the crypts is an experience that is hardly describable and I am glad that Ms. Donnelly incorporated them into her novel as they were such an important part of the novel. It certainly lent an aura and ambiance to the novel that I don't think would have been there if the setting were anywhere else. If you have not had a chance to visit the Catacombes, I highly recommend visiting them if you ever go to Paris. Many victims from the French Revolution were laid to rest there. Because I have been there, I was able to visualize exactly what it would have been like to be down there in the dark, all alone, while being chased by guards, having been shot, and I was able to put myself in Alexandrine's mind. Alexandrine was a plucky and courageous character who cared for Louis-Charles when many others had given up on him or believed him to be living in the lap of luxury. I admired her audacity and what it took to survive during the lean years of the Revolution. I really don't think I would have done quite as well had I been in her position.
Revolution had everything you could want in novel: there was romance, suspense, mystery, historical archives, time travel, and humour. I enjoyed everything about it and didn't want it to end, but then I am a history buff reading about one of my favourite time periods. I am definitely looking forward to reading more novels by Jennifer Donnelly.
You can visit Jennifer Donnelly at her:
Website: Jennifer Donnelly