‘Revolution’ by Jennifer Donnelly was a lucky find for me. I picked it up for 50p in a book shop’s clearance sale, unsure of what it would be like. As it turns out, the book was near impossible to put down. A historical fiction novel, it follows the stories of two girls. The first, Andi is a music student living in the modern day. She discovers the diary of the second girl who lived during the French Revolution. Alongside Andi, the reader learns her role in the events that had unfolded as Andi reads the diary.
There are multiple connections between the two girls which are gradually revealed as you read on. The number of sub-plots as well as the over-arching story hooks your interest and keeps you guessing. There is a certain familiarity to the characters which allows for the reader to be drawn in and feel part of the story.
Andi spends much of the novel suffering from a severe depression as a result of her brother’s death. The circumstances of which are not revealed until near ‘Revolution’s end. As a reader you find yourself siding with her, and wanting her to come out on top as she spirals further down into the depths of her depression. At parts this causes the book to be hard to read emotionally, but the focus on the character’s personal journey as well as the external plot is powerful. It adds to the realism and overall urgency of the story. Both characters are fighting against forces that are beyond their control.
The final part of the novel does leave the realism and relatability behind somewhat, causing the story to become more fantastical. This part is, I believe, the weakest of the entire book, which is a shame as the rest is brilliant. Besides that, the rest of the novel is well crafted. The research is in depth, and despite one of the focal ‘historical’ characters of the novel being entirely fictional, one certainly gets the sense that he actually existed. I enjoyed ‘Revolution’ tremendously and I am certainly glad I picked it up in shop. For 50p, it was well worth the buy, particularly now that I have found out that my copy is a first edition. A clearance sale can hold so many gems.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars