Jennifer Donnelly //
Sadness down in four notes – B-flat, F, G, E
Andi Alpers is a gifted musician and student. She is a senior at a prestigious private school in Brooklyn when grief threatens to destroy her life. She is angry with her father for moving on with his life, heartbroken by the pain she sees in her mother, not being able to cope with life anymore, and she blames herself for the death of her younger brother, Truman. When she is on the verge of getting expelled from school her father forces Andi to join him on a trip to Paris. She accidently comes across a diary in an old guitar case, the diary of Alexandrine Paradis, an actress living in Paris during the French Revolution.
Andi seems to find comfort in reading the diary as she, page by page, finds out about Alex’s life and her love for the little Louis Charles, the unfortunate son of Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI. The diary abruptly stops and Alexandrine’s last entry sends Andi down the catacombs of Paris in search of answers.
In Revolution Jennifer Donnelly interlaces two worlds, centuries apart, in one gripping story. She does an excellent job. Andi’s powerful voice pulls you in from the very first sentence. You can literally feel the razor-sharp arrows of self-defense that Andi shoots at the coldhearted world around her and at herself. Donnelly lets you walk with Andi and you can, again literally, feel the jagged rocks of the earth she walks under your own bare feet. But most of all you can hear the solace music brings to Andi, how it keeps her from jumping off of a roof, how it heals her, even though it is only for as long as a song.
Under Donnelly’s crafty hands B-flat, F, G, E, the four saddest notes ever written, resonate in your ears as they become illustrative of Andi’s life, and when Donnelly transposes them into Alexandrine’s 18th century life she makes sure that those four notes will never ever leave you again. What Donnelly does in this compelling novel is what Andi wishes upon her father: she lets you hear the music, or in Andi’s words: ‘I’m wishing. Wishing he could hear music. Wishing he could hear me. Wishing that for just a minute or two, he would close his eyes and listen to Malherbeau’s gorgeous Concerto in A Minor, the Fireworks Concerto, and feel what I feel. Feel the sound echoing in the hollow of his bones. Feel his heart find its rhythm in quarters and eights. Wishing he could hear that bleak metallic sample in Radiohead’s “Idioteque” and recognize the Tristan Chord, the one Wagner used at the beginning of Tristan and Isolde. He might know that that particular sample came from a Paul Lansky piece, composed for computer, called “mild und leise,” or he might not, but he’d surely recognize that four-note bad-news chord.’
A truly astonishing and powerful book that makes you wish the world would be made of music and words only.
text by Mina Witteman / photo by Olivier Witteman