Tuesday, September 10, 2013

BritLit - Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

 Although not British, this one is still part of our BritLit trip. For me - this one caused a reading revolution! Revolution is actually written by an American author about the French Revolution - get ready for fireworks!
     Jennifer Donnelly has captured the essence of the struggles of the "citizen" of the French Revolution and intertwined it with a modern angsty-teenage musical prodigy from Brooklyn to the point that two characters become one soul. Andi and Alex (Alexandrine), two strong-willed teenage girls whose hearts ache for a young child whose lives they wish to save meet through Alex's 200 year-old journal. Andi becomes obsessed with Alex's personal account of the revolution and how it affected the innocent. Both Andi and Alex find that they must complete a monumental task to mark the importance of just one life.

     The thing about reading Revolution is that Jennifer Donnelly makes you feel like you are there. You don't just read the scenes. You smell the stinking city of Paris - devoid of all sanitation and personal hygiene, you feel the hunger that the citizens endured and the fear, pain and anger they endured trying to bring "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity" to France. Through Andi, you journey through Alex's journal and relate to her quest to let little Louis-Charles know she still cares, that he is not forgotten.  
     Revolution is not just about the past, but about the present revolution going on inside Andi and Alex. Both girls are struggling to know their inner-selves. What do they stand for? What are their lives really about? Andi continually struggles with finding her self-worth and teeters on the brink of suicide. Several times I felt genuine fear for Andi. Would she do it? Would she take that "one step" and give herself the punishment she thinks she deserves? And Alex - she's so mixed up trying to do what everyone demands of her, will she find the strength to do what she needs to? Will she be true to her own heart - even if she's killed for it?

No other book has gripped my heart like this one. Sure, books have made me emotional - why else would I read them? But this one, these characters, have grabbed my heart. I claim Andi and Alex for my own - my literary sisters and BFF's. I want to ride mopeds in Paris with Andi and watch Alex perform at the Palais-Royale at night when she's only performing for herself, without an audience. I want to be there for them when they reach rock-bottom and tell them to hang on just one more day. When we asked Jennifer on Skype which character was her favorite, she said it was like being asked which one of her children she loved more. I agree, they cannot be weighed against each other -without Alex, there wouldn't be an Andi and without Andi, we wouldn't know what Alex wanted us to know!

Revolutionary Paintings-J.David
The beautiful streets of Par-ee!

 The triple-bonus of Revolution is that you are taken all over Paris - up, under, across in both centuries. If you want to know what it's like there, this one will take you there. I stood in all the same places as Alex and Andi, visited the Eiffel Tower, stood at the door to the catacombs, watched a horse-drawn carriage as I ate at an outdoor cafe, ate baguettes with meat and cheese, rode the Metro with crowds of people and pick-pockets, climbed the steps to Sacre Coeur, and walked behind the chapel to watched the artists paint in Montmatre.
The Catacombes
Walked through the gates of Versailles
Sacre Coer

225+ steps
The sunset at the Sacre Coure

     A first for me, I read this book in three formats - started with the digital download, but it expired, so I switched to the audio version which was killer! Alex and Andi were read by two different readers and Alex was read with a strong French accent! Then I re-read it in print. So protective of how I use my limited, precious reading time, until this one, I've never re-read a book in the same season. 

Rather than a 5-star rating, I give Revolution 
This one's for the Green Man!




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