Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Posted by Cobalt | Posted in , | Posted on 6:31 AM

Rating: 5 / 5 stars, plus AWE

My eternal gratitude goes to the young woman at the ALA conference who convinced me to pick up this book and take it home with me. Where it shall now stay.

Andi Alpers is in Hell. Her brother is dead, her mother is insane, and she is about to be expelled from her prestigious prep school in Brooklyn. At this point, Andi really couldn't care less. The pills and her music are the only things keeping her here, but she's slipping further every day...

Until her famous geneticist father gets wind of her impending expulsion and drags her off to Paris to finish her senior thesis. Desperate to get home, Andi throws herself into her research, a project on the musical 'genetics' of Amadé Malherbeau, a 19th century French musician who composed the mysteriously-titled "Fireworks Concerto."

Andi just wants to get back to Brooklyn. She doesn't care about her father's controversial project: testing an ancient preserved heart that may have belonged to the son of the late Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette -- a little boy who saw his world crumble during the Revolution. But then Andi finds a beautifully-preserved guitar among the collection of artifacts. And inside the guitar case, she finds a hidden compartment with what seems to be a diary...

Trust me, this book is so much more than its plotline, although Donnelly does a flawless job of weaving two narratives together, as Andi reads the account of a girl her age during the Revolution -- Alexandrine Paradis is a street performer with aspirations to the stage, but she finds herself drawn into roles she cannot control as her countrymen tear each other to pieces. Until there is nothing left in her but the drive for one mission; this girl, who watched her world burn and her people close their eyes, becomes determined to set the skies on fire.

I loved how much of the story was interlaced with music, and its power to express when words fail us. And even though I'm not a total music nerd like Andi, she made me appreciate the complexity of the musical tradition, how musicians draw from each other and leave their legacies, so that even today a rock star can carry echoes of Beethoven in one haunting chord.

Really, this book is full of beauty as it circles around one ultimate question: Why? In a world choked with madness, cruelty, grief, fury, and despair, rolling endlessly along the iron rails of History -- why bother? Why try? Why even dare to hope?

Read this book. It may not stay with you in the same way; it may not change you or the way you see the world, even slightly.

But I doubt it.

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