Monday, February 7, 2011

Jen's Review of Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Title/Author:  Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Published:  Random House, 2010

Source:  Purchased for my nook

Why I Read It: I've heard such great things about the book!

Rating: 4 stars

Summary (from Goodreads):

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.


Let me start off by saying that I learned a lot about the French Revolution from this book.  Honestly, I didn’t remember much about it from history classes I’ve taken.  The Revolution was a scary time for the people of France.  It seemed people were guillotined almost on a daily basis.  There are literally thousands of people buried below the streets of Paris.  If I ever make it to Paris I will probably get a little freaked out thinking about that while walking down a street!

Jennifer Donnelly did a fantastic job bringing the past and present together.  For me, the book started off a little slow, mostly because I expected to be introduced to Alex sooner.  The reader is in Andi’s head throughout the book.  We’re aware of Alex’s story by reading her diary- the one Andi finds hidden in a guitar case.  

Andi is a girl who has been through a lot in the past two years.  She witnessed her little brother being hit by a car.  Then her family falls apart, she always feels numb from antidepressants, her mother is going crazy, her father is never around, she’s in danger of not graduating high school and the only thing that’s keeping Andi afloat is music.  Her father takes her to Paris for winter break and he hopes that by getting away it will help Andi heal some.

Alex is a girl who lived during the Revolution in France in the 1790’s.  Her family never had enough to eat, her father had been jailed many times for speaking out against the king, her sister was pregnant with no husband, the family put on puppet shows as a way to make a living and they heard there was plenty of food at Versailles and that going to Paris would solve all of their problems.  Sadly, they were mistaken.  

Louis-Charles, the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, is an important part in Alex’s story.  By reading Alex’s diary, Louis-Charles also becomes an essential part of Andi’s story.  Andi’s father is in Paris to do genetic testing on a heart that is believed to belong to Louis-Charles.  In 1794 he was imprisoned in a tower under poor conditions and was thought to be neglected.  He died in 1795 but there were rumors that he escaped and that a dead body was left in the tower for his captors to find.

No one knew for sure if Louis-Charles really escaped or if he died while imprisoned.  Until 2000, when the heart really did undergo genetic testing.  Scientists tested the heart’s mitochondrial DNA and it was concluded that the heart belonged to Louis-Charles, the lost king of France.  I think that it is so amazing and fascinating that in 1795 they were able to preserve the heart and that 205 years later it could still be tested on and get accurate results.  You can read more about it here and here.

And that is your brief history lesson for the day.  

Back to the book.  I really enjoyed the story.  Sometimes I was getting confused with Alex’s diary entries so make sure you pay attention to the dates.  The next time I see fireworks going off (illegally) I’ll be wondering if they are for one specific person to see and to know that they are not forgotten.

I was listening to the radio the other day and I heard the song "Firework" by Katy Perry.  I'm not usually a fan of her songs but I thought this particular one fit perfectly with Andi and especially Alex:


  1. Revolution was one of my favorite books in 2010. Thanks for posting the links that provide more info on the preserved heart.

  2. I LOVED this book and am so happy to see a review on it here! I thought it was fascinating, and Andi is one of the best developed characters I've read in recent memory. So glad you enjoyed it, too!

    -Linds, bibliophile brouhaha

  3. I just googled 'catacombs paris' and you get pictures that are seriously creepy! I've been to Paris 4 times and I somehow missed this :S
    Anyway, great review :) I'm hoping to love this one as well.

  4. I've heard countless incredible things about this book. As a lover of history and fiction I've never reading anything that combines the two elements together and I think this book sounds like an amazing place to start!

    Thanks for the review. :)

  5. i cant wait to read this book!

    - annie @ BOOKed UP!

  6. I read this book at the end of the year and it is fantastic. I love that Donnelly was able to combine two stories and so much history into one book. Excellent read. And great review :)

  7. 7, 2011 at 7:20 PM

    I am new to the world of book blogs and one thing I love about all the various blogs is to find books that I have never heard of, but would love to read. This is one of them. Thanks for the review!


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