Children of the Revolution

Posted in Favorite Books, Random at 10:55 pm by Janet

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly features some of my favorite things: France, Radiohead, the Smiths, and an accurate depiction of an archivist! (I’m looking at you, Mr. Archives Cowboy.) Ahem. “My job, here at the Abelard Library, is to get information. And Yves Bonnard’s job is to stop me. Yves G. Bonnard, head archivist, aka the Great and Powerful Oz, aka the Grand Inquisitor, aka the Antichrist.” Angsty American teen Andi is doing research in Paris, and she’s running up against every roadblock an archivist has in his acid-free bag of tricks: demanding an archives pass that’s available only with a very specific photo id, closing for lunch, an insistence on filling out call slips properly, shushing, scolding for not wearing the white cotton gloves, and ejection for cell phone use. Dead on. This, ladies and gentlemen, is why archives should not be mentioned in the same breath as libraries. They are not for people. Their holdings are not meant for actual use. They are run by crazy hoarders. What is the point of having a bunch of stuff if no one is allowed to look at it? If a tree falls alone in the forest, does anyone hear it? Set the historical documents freeeeee!!!!

Whoa, my intention was not to rail against archives, although I’m always happy to do that. I really meant to talk about Revolution. Andi is a rich hipster girl half-assedly attending a private school in Brooklyn. Since the death of her younger brother a few years before, Andi and her family have been falling apart. Her mother has disappeared in her painting, her father is immersed in his new marriage and his duties as a world-famous geneticist, and Andi is in a drug-addled funk. Then Andi’s father insists that Andi accompany him to Paris for winter break. There, Andi finds the diary of Alexandrine, a Parisian actress once entrusted with entertaining Louis-Charles, the dauphin. While she’s supposed to be doing research for her senior project about a French classical musician (hence the trips to the archives), Andi gets sucked into Alex’s world. Somehow Andi’s obsession with Alex’s quest to save the dauphin, Andi’s love of classical and rock music (Radiohead, the Smiths, etc.), and her new relationship with a French musician all intertwine to help Andi move forward with her life, leaving some of her grief behind.

Donnelly’s done a great deal of research about France and about music. Andi is a compelling, smart, and witty character whose pain is all too real. I’m still trying to figure out how all the pieces of the story fit together, but whatever the answer, all the story lines are vivid and made me want to keep reading. This is one Revolution that should not be put down.

Oh, hey, did you notice that Andi is an only child? It’s a huge part of the story. The author definitely intended for her to be an only child, what with the dead brother. No authorial laziness there. Andi is grappling with a tragedy that has left her as an only child. Of course that gets into images of families with only one child–is the only child a sign of a family’s tragedy, pain, or loneliness? I’d say no, not necessarily, but that’s a topic for another post and another time. You all have a Revolution to start.


  1. Ann P said,

    January 22, 2011 at 2:04 pm


    The new National Geographic has a great article about the tunnels/quarries/catacombs under Paris and those who frequent them. This is another area where Donnelly’s done her research. I like my fantasy and time-travel to have a base in fact.

  2. Bridget said,

    February 4, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    I love all of the music in the book and I even had to look up Shine On You Crazy Diamond on YouTube to hear the little riff her teacher tells her about. She does such amazing research.
    Total agreement on archives. They are the anti-libraries.

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