Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Read: December 14, 2013-December 18, 3013
Release Date: January 1st 2013
“Life’s all about the revolution, isn’t it? The one inside, I mean. You can’t change history. You can’t change the world. All you can ever change is yourself.”
Modern day Brooklyn: Andi Alper’s saunters through traffic bound streets high on the idea of forgetting the last year of her life. Standing on the edge of a building, she contemplates losing herself in the wind to end it all, but with a rock star guitar in her hand, Andi can’t find it in her heart to smash such a beautiful instrument. Slipping closer and closer toward the edge, Andi struggles to hold onto anything that will keep her in this life; and at this stage, nothing is helping. Her father left their family in ruins, and her mother sits at an easel painting the face of her dead brother, Truman. All of them heartbroken by the loss as it continuously pulls them further and further from one another, enveloping Andi in a never ending guilt hold. On top of that, Andi is about to be expelled from one of Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private schools, leaving her father fuming with anger. In a last ditch attempt to fix the family he left behind, Lewis, Andi’s father talks her into spending winter break with him in Paris while her mother recuperates in a hospital.
Andi is reluctant to say the least. Fueled with so much hatred for her father, she fights him with everything she has until she gives up and accompanies him to Paris. Once there, the two stay with old family friends, Guillaume—G—and his wife Lili, who are more than pleased to open their home to them. Lewis won a Nobel Prize for cracking a genome he had pored over for so long, and G was in need of his help in cracking his own puzzle. A small, shriveled heart in a jar, dried up from years of decomposition, but believed to have belonged to Marie Antoinette’s son Louis-Charles, the ten year old boy that was left to die in a cell after his entire family had been wiped out in the French Revolution. Armed with little more than a hunch, G reels in his old friend to test the DNA of the heart with a strand of hair collected from Marie Antoinette’s hairbrush.
Andi hardly believes in G’s theory of how the heart came to be discovered and is even more skeptical that it could belong to the lost, little royal. After all, she has a senior thesis to write and the quicker she finishes, the faster she can return home to take her mother out of the hospital. But, when a small book comes bounding out of a hundred year old guitar case, Andi’s entire mission on the trip shifts as she loses herself in a centuries old diary.
Paris 1795: Alexandrine Paradis dreamed of performing on the stages of Paris reciting sonnets and plays, not in the dirty courtyard of town giving out plays for the poor for free. It was her family’s livelihood, but she wanted more. An encounter with a laughing child would forever seal her fate, as it was no ordinary child, but the Dauphin, Louis-Charles along with the royal family. Whisked away to be Louis- Charles playmate- to make him laugh and keep him joyous, Alexandrine recounts the revolution through her own eyes. Risking everything she has in order to save an innocent boy who did nothing but simply exist.
As Andi becomes more obsessed with the diary, she can hardly contain herself as she learns more of Alexandrine’s story. She sees a lot of herself in Alex and relates to the way that she loves Louis-Charles, the way that Andi loved her brother Truman. However, one night, Andi delves too far into the past, losing herself amidst the catacombs of Paris where the past suddenly becomes very real.
The way that Donnelly weaves history, past and present is astonishing. I was swept up in the world of the French Revolution and the picture that she painted of the royal family. I became enveloped by this overwhelming curiosity to find out what happened to Alexandrine and if that little heart belonged to Louis-Charles. The story is a roller coaster of information and history that leaves you a little lightheaded but still eager for more. I know some people complained about the various aspects of the story, but I had no issue with it. Every question I had was answered and in keeping with literature—the book is a work of fiction and therefore liberties taken with different scenarios is completely acceptable.
After all, it’s easy to get lost if you don’t know how to find your way back.