This is not a novel featuring time travel. Or perhaps it is. Hard to say. At first I was worried it would be, and then I was relieved that it seemed to escape the need for inexplicable transportation to another era. And then, well maybe, or maybe not.
I heard so much good about Jennifer Donnelly’s A Gathering Light, but never got to it, so this is my first. And it’s great. I hated the beginning, but put it down to me having a bad night and returned to the book the following day. And soon I could barely put it down.
Revolution may be about the French Revolution, but it’s a very American story. So American that I wouldn’t have objected to the UK edition having the odd extra piece of information, like how old Andi, the heroine, is. She’s doing – or rather she’s doing her best to avoid doing – her senior thesis. And the main part of the book is set during winter break, which I took to mean Christmas. There is however no sign of Christmas in the novel, so I double-checked with an American friend. Yes, it should be Christmas. Hmm. The time of year when the sun in Paris rises soon after 4.30.
I suspect the reason I hated the beginning is that to set the scene for Andi’s state of mind and the problems with her parents, you need a dark start. Her younger brother died a few years earlier and she’s still suffering from guilt. Hence her willingness to throw her future away by misbehaving in school and trying to skip the senior thesis.
Dad – the Nobel prize winner (and don’t get me started on that one!) – drags her off to Paris, where Andi is able to talk and read and generally understand everything, because she is bilingual. Yes. She has to work on a proposal for the thesis, which is to be on Amadé Malherbeau, the famous composer. Music is the one thing Andi cares about, and she is an accomplished guitarist.
Staying with friends, she accidentally comes across a diary from the time after the Revolution. It’s written by a girl her own age, and through reading the diary Andi learns much, both about the Revolution and about France, as well as about herself. She also meets a boy who is a talented singer and falls in love.
The background to the Revolution is fascinating, Alexandrine’s adventures in the 1790s really pull you in, and Andi’s romance is satisfying and rings true.
It was at this point when I felt secure in the knowledge there would be no time travel, that things develop. Did the iPod end up in 1795 or didn’t it? It’s powerful stuff, regardless.
So, take no notice that I’ve been griping about details. I loved the book.
Although, the comment about ‘purple menopause clothes’ was hitting below the belt, surely? I know it’s Andi saying it, but Jennifer has had the thought, or she wouldn’t have written it.