Review by Laura Beutler
I am predisposed to love books. I think it’s because I love the act of reading so very much that, as long as what I’m reading isn’t overly offensive to me, I love it. Excessively. I’ve realized as I read and review books, how very fickle I am. My favorite book is constantly changing. Usually, it’s the one I’ve just finished.
Rarely, though, there comes a book that stands apart from the other favorites. These are books that have a spark, a something Other, that speaks to me. I can’t explain why I love them. I just do. It feels as if the author wrote their book just for me. I mean, clearly Diane Setterfield knew that if she wrote a novel about a woman who loved books, who discovered an amazing author when that author contacted her, who went off to a huge, empty house to interview this author; it would mean she’d written the perfect novel for one Laura Beutler (Yeah, The Thirteenth Tale was for me. Jealous?). The same goes for Elizabeth Kostova, who seems to understand exactly how obsessed I am with a good chunk of research. If a blank notebook had landed on my desk one morning, I would have filled it with notes too, as I tried to figure out what exactly the mark on the cover meant, who sent it, and why they wanted me to have it. She gets it, and that’s why she wrote The Historian. For me.*
When I find a book like that, I drop everything in my life.
No really. Everything.
Hey, it’s not like I’m doing anything that important anyway.)
It happened on Tuesday.
I’d snatched up a copy of Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly during my last trip to Barnes and Noble. I saw it sitting there, looking at me as if to say, “Read me, Laura…Read me!” As with all books, once I heard the call, I couldn’t resist. Moments later, I was photographing the cover while Rachael drove through Fort Wayne, sending the image to Bailey as I claimed the right to review it. Once home, I started reading, then impulsively closed the cover, put the book on my nightstand, and waited.
That’s because I could tell. I needed to have time for this book, time set aside just for it, so I could enjoy its utter perfection.
Tuesday, I read Revolution in one sitting.
Revolution is a masterpiece.
I don’t think I could adequately express to you exactly why it’s so perfect. But just putting it on a list of top ten books from 2010…feels like an insult. No matter how much I love the other books on those lists, and I do, not one of them can compare to Revolution.
I am in love with this book. In love with the narrator, Andi. In love with her broken heart, her music, her mother, and the key she wears around her neck. I love the diary Andi finds locked away in an ages-old guitar case. And I love Alex, who wrote the diary. And Alex’s fireworks--I love those, too.
Plot synopsis time:
Andi, who lives in present-day Brooklyn, is barely functioning. She takes antidepressants like candy, but they still don’t control her grief or her anger. Andi’s younger brother, Truman, is gone, and nothing can bring him back. Her life isn’t worth living now that he’s dead. By the start of winter break, she’s near expulsion from her elite private school. That’s when Andi’s father decides to intervene. He takes Andi to Paris, where she will stay with him as he assists his friend, G, with research.
Once in Paris, Andi finds the diary of Alexandrine, a street performer in Paris whose encounter with young Prince Louis-Charles changes her life forever. Alex chronicles her life during the horrific world of the French Revolution in the journal and conceals it in her guitar case. Andi is captivated by Alex’s diary, until one evening when she’s drawn into the story, moving into Alex’s world to face the terror firsthand.
What happens to Andi happened to me as I read Revolution. Alex’s world became more real to me than the room around me (or all the meals I skipped while reading). For a little while, I was in Paris reading that diary, munching fresh bread and living in a chilly made-over factory surrounded by the physical remnants of the Revolution.
There are a few books that I will always keep. They have a place of honor on my bookshelf, where they are arranged neatly, always at the ready so I can reread them at will. No one may borrow them, but I have extra copies to loan out, so I can still force others to read them. Their place on the shelf is permanent, even if I have to buy a bigger bookshelf to fit all my favorites.** Revolution has been added to this shelf.
I hope you all will read it and love Revolution as much as I do.
*Sure, maybe you might think she wrote it for all of us. But you’re wrong. Clearly, she wrote it for me. But I’ll share.
**Does anyone else have a shelf like this, or books you love this much?