Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review: Revolution

Apologies, I have literally formatted this 5 times and it still won't work, I give up! Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly 3.25 stars Reasons for reading: I enjoy Donnelly's books; YA Reading Challenge Description: "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." My thoughts: Donnelly really has a gift for historical fiction and this is another well-researched, well-written book. I did find it a bit too long - maybe some of Andi's angst could have been cut out while still giving us what we need to understand her. And that pain and depression is very poignant, I really felt for Andi. I could just maybe have heard a bit less about it. The device of going back and forth between Andi and Alex was well-done - I was right there with Andi wanting to know what had happened to Alex and the little prince. But, as with Andi, I also could have done with a bit less of Alex's struggle out of poverty and burning desire to become an actress and then her quest to be there for Louis-Charles during his imprisonment. The idea was great, but I found it was repeated a few too many times for me. There was a little bit too much...almost magic realism for me. The guy responsible for Truman's death is basically named Robespierre and I fell out of the story somewhat when "the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present." Was it a dream sequence? Did she hit her head? Was it magic? It was a bit too much of a gimmick for me. But while those scenes weren't my favourites, Donnelly's descriptions of the filthy, smelly, violent Paris of Robespierre's day overlaid with Andi's knowledge of present-day Paris really work well and have clearly been thoroughly researched, as has everything from the music to the history for this novel. While I'm not all that well-versed in music, I did think the musical history sections, with connections between composers like Handel and Radiohead, were interesting. I've just checked and discovered that the subject of Andi's thesis, Amadé Malherbeau, does not exist, which makes sense given that he had to fit into the story, but seems a bit of a shame when the book contains so many facts about the Revolution and Prince Louis-Charles. Donnelly also has a sense of humour, which is great. Andi's friend Vijay is constantly being interrupted by his hen-pecking mother who feels he should spend every waking moment on his political science thesis, rather than wasting it talking to Andi. And I wonder if Donnelly went to the archives in Paris, as Andi does - as there are some very funny, spot-on-seeming descriptions of the hoops one must jump through to gain access to the materials. Overall, I found Andi's journey from suicidal depression to a functioning life in Paris and Alex's story of the horrors of the Revolution to be worth reading, despite my reservations.