Publication Date: October 12, 2010
Revolution, Jennifer Donnelly's remarkable new novel, weaves together the lives of Andi Alpers, a depressed modern-day teenager, and Alexandrine Paradis, a brave young woman caught up in the French Revolution. While in Paris with her estranged father, a Nobel geneticist hired to match the DNA of a heart said to belong to the last dauphin of France, Andi discovers a diary hidden within a guitar case--and so begins the story of Alexandrine, who herself had close ties to the dauphin. Redemption and the will to change are powerful themes of the novel, and music is ever present--Andi and Alex have a passion for the guitar, and the playlist running through Revolution is a who's who of classic and contemporary influences. Danger, intrigue, music, and impeccably researched history fill the pages of Revolution, as both young women learn that, "it is love, not death, that undoes us.
Revolution is a big, beautiful novel that defies category. Is it literary fiction? Or historical? I don't claim to be an expert in categories, but I loved this book, no matter which it may fall into. It's packed with meticulously researched facts and characters that are not always likable, but are always entertaining. Andi is pretty miserable when we first meet her, and it's hard not to roll your eyes and say, 'Oh, get over yourself, you poor little rich girl. You have every opportunity in the world, yet you're about to squander each and every one!' Andi has suffered a tragedy, yes, but she feels because she has, she has the right to act like a total bitch to just about everyone she knows and who loves her. That said, Jennifer Donnelly has done such a masterful job in creating Andi as a character that you can't just dismiss her as a poor little rich girl. She's flawed, not just because of what's happened to her, but that's what's pushed her to the breaking point.
Andi's mental state reaches crisis level in the week leading up to Christmas break. It's those events that cause her father drag her along to Paris. They stay with a "rock-star" historian friend of her father's, and it's there that she discovers Alex's diary. The French Revolution has never been one of my main historical interests (and I have many) but it's hard not to be interested in Alex's tale, as she is swept up into a life among the Royals and forms a bond with the young dauphin.
As Andi is reading the diary, she's conducting her own research for her senior thesis, so that she can actually pull her grades out of the gutter and possibly graduate. Through her travels she meets Virgil, a young cabbie who has to be one of the most vibrant characters I've read recently. As soon as he's introduced he seems to just pop off the page. Andi likes Virgil, and I particularly liked seeing a softer side of her as they got to know each other.
As a side-note, I really enjoyed the musical references in this book. Andi is a music nerd, and while I consider myself a bit of an aging music fan and my tastes are not as refined as they once were, I loved all the references.
I thoroughly enjoyed the entire book, but the last hundred odd pages were my favorite. Without giving too much away, I'll just say I enjoyed how Alex's and Andi's story lines merged. Revolution will have a place on my list of favorite books of 2010, and I will definitely be purchasing a copy for my collection!