I’ve said before that I like the kind of novel where you have two sets of characters in two different time periods, and the novel goes back and forth between them. Especially when one of the sets of characters (the modern one) is researching the other set (the old-time-y one.) So when I saw that Jennifer Donnelly, beloved of the blogosphere (that is you) for her Rose books and then Northern Lights, had written a book of this sort, I was…well, I was mildly intrigued. I thought I might get it from the library sometime if I remembered to.
Then I got a new job, and I had to move away from everything that is familiar to me, and go off into the unknown and do everything new and different. Then Indie Sister came into town to bid me farewell, and we went to the bookshop, and it turns out that when we are stressed, we buy things. Like books. When we were at the Bongs & Noodles, I saw Revolution and I was like I MUST HAVE THIS BOOK IMMEDIATELY FOR MY LIFE IS INCOMPLETE WITHOUT IT.
My life was probably not incomplete without this book, but it was a pretty damn good book. It is about this girl called Andi who is struggling to recover from her little brother’s recent death. She has become completely self-destructive and miserable, so her parents decide she must go off to Paris with her scientist father, there to do her homework and start behaving like a real person. While she is there she discovers a diary belonging to this acrobat trickster actress girl from the French Revolution.
Initially I found Andi trying. The build-up to the revelation of what had happened to make Andi so embittered and miserable went on and on and on, and by the time it got properly revealed (as Jill said), Andi would have had to have orchestrated 9/11 for me to feel like all the angst and stress were merited. The book was slow to start, I admit, but once Andi got to Paris and discovered the diary and met the interesting people she met, I couldn’t put it down. I was so impressed that Donnelly managed to make the characters and plotlines of both her main characters emotionally interesting. Even the minor characters were pretty well fleshed-out.
There was just this one thing that kept me from loving it. I hugely did not like the way the book handled mental illness – or actually, the way it handled mental health facilities. It was very much all this “If Van Gogh had had Prozac we wouldn’t have his beautiful art” and, like, mental health professionals willfully refuse to understand you, and the characters getting “put” into mental institutions even though THEY WERE GETTING BETTER OMG WHY ARE YOU DEPRIVING THEM OF THEIR ART. It wasn’t even a thoughtful version of these arguments, which I would have liked reading, but rather the typical, simplistic, kneejerk version that you get in every third book and film and TV show. I gnashed my teeth in anger.
Otherwise very good! My introduction to Jennifer Donnelly was a slightly qualified success! And now that I have my very own brand-new New York Public Library card, I can go forth and investigate the rest of her books. Hurrah!
Who else has read it:
Tell me if I missed yours!