Review: Revolution

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.

Jennifer Donnelly, author of the award-winning novel A Northern Light, artfully weaves two girls’ stories into one unforgettable account of life, loss, and enduring love. Revolution spans centuries and vividly depicts the eternal struggles of the human heart.–From Amazon

Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution is as breathtakingly beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. I don’t read much historical fiction, but Revolution served as a nice bridge for me, blending the contemporary and the historical in one perfect package. The story of Andi Alpers, who is broken and suicidal after her brother’s death, is interwoven with that of Alexandrine Paradis, a brave teen from the time of the French Revolution, whose courageous chronicles are revealed in the pages of her hidden diary. Andi’s sorrow and grief are palpable, and Alexandrine’s passionate writing brings the Revolution to life. Together they show that a true revolution is not about a country, but about an individual; the biggest battles can take place inside a single person.

I read most of Revolution‘s nearly 500 pages in a single night, telling myself I would stop after another chapter, and then another and another, until I finally collapsed in the early morning. I got swept away in Donnelly’s vivid writing and impeccably researched prose. In addition to all of the period-based research, Donnelly captures Andi’s passion for music with descriptions of theory, as well as classic and contemporary pieces and musicians. She also delves into some of the basics of genetics, as Andi’s dad is a geneticist working on identifying a Revolution era heart. Each topic is explored with the same fluidity, and the book as a whole displays an impressive range of talent.

For educators interested in the novel, I can see Revolution as a wonderful companion book for anyone studying A Tale of Two Cities or the history of the French Revolution. Donnelly includes a bibliography listing her source materials, which could be useful for any accompanying projects.

The last historical fiction book I can remember loving anywhere near this much is Jane Yolen’s The Devil’s Arithmetic, which enthralled me as a child, and I saw some ties to near the end of Revolution. As an adult, I’ve struggled with the genre, but I’m feeling a bit braver about diving back in now. I hope to make my way into Donnelly’s other YA and adult books, Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy, and perhaps Laurie Halse Anderson’s historical fiction books that I’d been nervous about trying previously. Any other recommendations for a slightly timid historical fiction reader would be greatly appreciated!

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3 Responses to "Review: Revolution"

  • I’ve been hearing alot about this author lately! I’m thinking I need to get a hold on one of her books!

    Thanks for the review!

    -Jamie

    1 Jamie said this (July 12, 2010 at 1:11 PM)


  • I was blown away by the elegance of the writing, the rich detail, and the incredible erudition. For a so-called historical fiction title, the contemporary sections were perfection.

    Check out A Brief History of Montmaray – lighter in tone but with some really charming, lovable characters.

    2 Helena said this (September 30, 2010 at 10:14 PM)


  • I have A Brief History of Montmaray on my wishlist. I can’t recall who else recommended it to me previously, but I will definitely have to bump it up toward the top now that it is getting another mention.

    I also bought Donnelly’s A Northern Light recently. Once I run out of her YA books, perhaps I’ll move on to her adult historical fiction.

    3 Melanie said this (September 30, 2010 at 10:18 PM)


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