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Friday, July 8, 2011

Revolution, written by Jennifer Donnelly. Random House, 2010. $21.99 ages 14 and up

"I laugh out loud. “No, I’m not.”
“No arguments, Andi. You’re coming to Paris and you’re taking your laptop with you. We’ll be there for three weeks. Plenty of time for you to work up an outline for your thesis.”
“Aren’t you forgetting something? What about Mom? What do we do about her? Just leave her here by herself?”
“I’m checking your mother into a hospital,” he says.
I stare at him, too shocked to speak.

Things in Andi's house are not going say the least. She is trying to cope with her brother's death, her mother's depression and her scientist father's continued absences. Enough? Well, not quite. Her prep school is threatening to expel her because of poor grades and unfinished course work.

Now, Dad comes home. He puts her mother in hospital to get help, and takes Andi off to Paris with him. She doesn't want to go. She has no choice.  She makes a deal. If she finishes an outline and the introduction to her senior thesis, he will allow an early return home. Andi is determined to get the work done and be gone.

Her chance meeting with Virgil,  and the discovery of a diary belonging to Alexandrine Paradis offer distractions that may put the deal in peril. As she reads the diary written at the time of the French Revolution, Andi is surprised at how much she and Alex seem to have in common. It connects Andi (and the reader) to the past and gives convincing glimpses of what life must have been like at the time. They are both characters to admire and understand as they find common connections across the centuries.

Andi loves music and is passionate about the influence a late seventeenth-century composer has had on modern music. That musical history lends an interesting bent to the story. When Andi meets Virgil she needs the calm and stability he offers. She is fascinated by him. Their love of music is their common link. Alex is a highly acclaimed actress who meets the Prince and is equally fascinated. They share the events of the Revolution and are drawn together by it. The setting is so authentic, you can almost feel yourself in Paris, today and in much earlier times.

It reads like both historical and contemporary fiction, with mystery, death, love and music playing important parts. It is a fascinating read, and so worth your time. I will leave the last words to Alexandrine, poignant and telling:

"It is not, sir.
It was my soul I thought to barter, yes,
and gladly I'd have given it, for it is a
small thing and of no value to me. But it
was not my soul that was taken, no.
It was my heart."

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