Andi has pretty much hit rock bottom and kept falling. She's a gifted musician and student, but her younger brother's death has sent her into a destructive downward spiral. When her mostly-absent father finds out that she's in danger of flunking out of school, he hauls her off to Paris with him for winter break, in order to monitor her progress on her all-important senior thesis. When Andi finds Alexandrine's diary, she feels an instant connection to this young woman from another time. Alexandrine was a born player, or actress, living during the French Revolution. Will Alexandrine's diary help Andi with her own problems or will they make them worse?
The biggest thing that stands out to me is the one drawback I found in the novel. The set-up showing exactly how bad Andi's life has gotten lasted about twice as long as I had the patience for. That's an entirely personal thing, so don't let me dissuade you from reading this book based on that alone. I have a low tolerance for "the earth is a black pit of despair" attitudes and that's where Andi is at the beginning and periodically throughout the book. I won't deny that she had ample reason to feel that way, I'll even admit that I would probably feel the same, but as a reader, it just went on too long for me.
On to the good stuff.
I just love Donnelly's writing. I read A Northern Light last summer and it immediately became one of my favorite books. There's just an unnameable beauty or grace to it that shines through, even when she's describing this dark, dark period of Andi's life.
There's a lot going on in this story. There's guilt, grief, family problems, mental illness, following your dreams and not selling out, how reaching out to help others is sometimes the best way to help yourself, and how sometimes when you don't make a stand you unwittingly assist the very people you should be standing against.
Wild with fear, barely hearing him, I scrambled to my feet and ran off. The streets I stumbled down were dark and so were the houses along them. I knocked on doors, hoping someone would let me in, for I did not know if I could make my legs carry me all the way to the Palais. No one answered. The decent people of Paris had hidden themselves behind closed doors as decent people always do. Massacres could not happen if it were not for decent people.
Makes you think, doesn't it?
Music lovers will love this book. Andi is an excellent guitarist with an encyclopedic knowledge of music. Her senior thesis is on a composer named Amadé Malherbeau and how his music has influenced music from the late eighteenth century to now. She's constantly referencing musicians and composers, some of whom I know and some I don't. Someone with more time and energy than me should put together a playlist of all the songs mentioned in this book. I would love to check it out!
There were a few more quotes I liked in the book.
"A human heart isn't made of stories," he says.
"Every heart is made of stories," G says."
"Life's all about the revolution, isn't it?" he said. "The one inside, I mean. You can't change history. You can't change the world. All you can ever change is yourself.""
All quotes are taken from an ARC and may be different in the final version.
This isn't a new favorite, but it was still mostly an enjoyable read. Readers of all ages will find something to relate to and something to learn. With Donnelly's beautiful prose, this book is sure to be talked about.
This book comes out today!
Jennifer Donnelly on her website.
Thanks to Around the World Tours for letting me borrow this book and to nomadreader for donating it.
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