Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Title: Revolution
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Genre: Teen Fiction, General Fiction, Historical Fiction
Publication Date: July 26, 2011 (Paperback);  October 12, 2010 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Ember
ISBN-13 Book: 9780385737647
Publisher CD:  Listening Library
ISBN-13 CD:  9780307746214
Source: I purchased a copy for review for my book award committee and checked out the audio from my local library. This is my honest review!

RevolutionRevolution by Jennifer Donnelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
After the death of her brother Truman, Andi is consumed by guilt and sadness. Her mother has retreated inside herself painting portrait after portrait of Truman, but never finding them quite right. When Andi’s father hospitalizes her mother, and hauls Andi off to Paris, Andi is furious. All she wants is to get as far away from her father as possible. When she stumbles across a diary of a girl written during the French Revolution, Andi becomes engrossed in Alex’s story. In Alex’s words Andi finds a story of love, betrayal, and misery as ghosts from the past become more and more real, and past and the present collide.

At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to like this novel. I found the narrator, Andi to be a caustic. I know she has her reasons for pushing everyone away and for popping the pills she does, but at first I had difficulty connecting with her. I am so glad that I stuck with this novel, because there is so much more to Andi than her bitchy attitude.

Andi knows pain, and no matter what she does, how many pills she pops, the pain doesn’t relent. When her father drags her off to Paris with him, Andi doesn’t want to go. She doesn’t want to be anywhere near her father, or anyone else. In her misery she finds a diary of a girl named Alex who lived during the French Revolution. In that diary she finds another type of pain, in the story Alex recounts.

This is where I admit the faults in my education. I never studied the French Revolution in school—I don’t think it was even mentioned in any of my history classes. In high school we only really covered American history and even then we never made it to the 20th century. In college, my interest was in ancient history, the Mesopotamians, ancient Egyptians, and the beginnings of civilization. The latest dates I studied in college history and humanities classes were in the 1300s. Despite my spotty education, I have managed to fill in some gaps, and acquire some knowledge since graduating.

Some people think you can’t learn anything from fiction. That it is all fluff and nonsense. I am not one of those people. I have learned more about history and the world from fiction books than I ever did in school. Revolution is a perfect example of this. Donnelly presents fact about the French Revolution, creates characters from people of that time, and that entices me enough that I found myself in the history books looking up the names she mentions, and the places and events. I learn from fiction, and it inspires me to learn more.

Donnelly is a gifted storyteller. She lured me in to her novel, and wouldn’t let me go until I finished the last page. I became addicted to this book, similar to the way Andi was addicted to her pills and guilt. I loathed to put it down, I wanted to know more, and at the same time I hated how close I was getting to the end.

Admittedly the beginning is slow, but the rest of the novel makes up for it. You need the foundation that Donnelly lays in the beginning of the novel to understand the choices Andi makes later on and her intense connection to Alex.

The audiobook is produced by Listening Library. Emily Janice Card and Emma Bering do the narration for this novel. While I don’t recall listening to their narration in any of the other audiobooks I have listened to I must say I am impressed. Their narration is perfectly performed. The audiobook is wonderfully done, and is definitely worth listening to. It is 12 CDs long, so definitely not one of the shorter novels, but pacing and narration are perfect.

Overall, this is a beautifully written novel that has become my favorite read this year. This is the type of book that frequently puts me in a reading funk, because I know whatever I pick up next will pale in comparison. I want more!

Vivid and poignant, Revolution is a novel that will haunt you long after you turn the last page.

I don’t usually do this, but I am going to include a couple of my favorite quotes from the book.

In this scene Andi is in the catacombs of Paris:

“There are skulls piled on skulls. Femurs on femurs. Some are neatly stacked. Others are worked into decorative patterns—stripes and bands and crosses and flowers. It feels like I’ve stumbled into the basement of a mass murderer with a flair for interior design.” (pg. 236)

This quote is from Alex as she talks about the massacres in Paris:

“The decent people of Paris had hidden themselves behind closed doors as decent people always do. Massacres could not happen if it were not for decent people.” (pg. 296)

View all my reviews

4 comments:

  1. Revolution is a book that really surprised me as well. At first I wasn't sure if I was going to like it and then it completely blew me away. I really love reading stories that involve French history though, so once it got more into that it helped. I *almost* gave it a 5/5 too!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'll admit Andi's caustic attitude really put me off at first, and I really wasn't sure about the book. I am so glad I stuck with it. I really loved this book. I think I am going to need to read more books an French history!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for stopping by yesterday... and great review to highlight! I keep seeing this book pop up from time to time. I really need to give it a try. Love historical fiction!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I really enjoyed this book. I find myself craving more like it!

    ReplyDelete

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