Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Blog Tour: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

(Left is the UK cover, right is the US)

So I read and adored Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (seriously, the book is fantastic -- I wish I had Jennifer's talent) and she has written up an awesome guest post on how she got the inspiration for the book. Anyway, enough from me, onto the Jennifer's post:

The Inspiration for Revolution

As you might expect from the title, this book is about a revolution. On one level, it’s about the French Revolution and one of its smallest victims. On another level, it’s about the revolution inside, about the changes we as human beings go through as we struggle to make sense of our world and its tragedies.

Without giving too much away, the story centers on two girls – one who lives in present day Brooklyn and has suffered the loss of her younger brother. And one who lived in 18th Century Paris and witnessed one of the worst crimes of the French Revolution. Their stories converge when Andi, the Brooklyn girl, travels to Paris and finds a diary hidden inside an old guitar case that belonged to Alex – the French girl.

Revolution got started ten years ago, although I didn’t know it then. I was reading the New York Times and saw an article – “Geneticists’ Latest Probe: The Heart of the Dauphin.” It showed a picture of a glass urn with a heart in it. The article said that a human heart, very small and very old, that had been in a glass urn in the Basilica of St. Denis in Paris, had just undergone DNA testing and had been found to be the heart of Louis Charles, the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

During the French Revolution Louis and Marie Antoinette were imprisoned and eventually guillotined by the revolutionaries. After the king and queen were executed, their children were kept in prison. Marie-Therese would survive her imprisonment and would be released in 1795. Eight-year-old Louis-Charles was not so lucky.

As heir to the throne, he was seen as a threat by the revolutionaries. It was rumored that powerful people were plotting to free the child and rule in his name. To prevent this, Robespierre and his crew essentially had Louis Charles walled up alive. He was kept in a small dark cold cell. Alone. Without enough food or a fire. He became sick. And he went mad. And eventually he died. At the age of ten.

Needless to say, this article really upset me. I couldn’t stop wondering how the idealism of the revolution devolved into such cruelty. I went to bed thinking about it and woke up thinking about it. I recognized the feeling – it’s how I feel when a book is starting inside me. But I couldn’t act on that feeling because I had other books due at the time. Nonetheless, the story stayed with me. Time moved on. I finished the other books. And I had a child. Which changed my life in many wonderful ways.

In one not so wonderful way, I somehow lost my protective shell. The one that enables us to hear a horrible story on the news and still go on with our lives. When my daughter came along, suddenly every news story about an abused child destroyed me. As a new mother, I knew what a child was in a way that I had not before. I knew how fragile and innocent children are. And that someone could hurt them, that they could starve in a famine, or be injured by a bomb….well, I could not understand that and I couldn’t bear it and I wondered, as I never had before, what kind of world is this that allows it? And how do we to live it?

These questions were haunting me and I had to find answers. So I set about trying to do that the only way I know how, by writing a story. I remembered that article I’d cut out of the Times. That small heart in its glass urn took on a new and symbolic meaning for me. What happened to Louis Charles was unspeakable, and yet, I felt that if I could face it and grapple with it, it might help me find my answers.

So I started in. And let me tell you, it wasn’t easy. In fact, Revolution is by far the hardest book I’ve written. I really struggled with it. It took me on a journey, this book, and how. It cost me a lot of sleep. Etched lines on my face and on my own heart. But it gave me the answers I needed. And I hope that maybe it will do that for my readers.


1 comment:

  1. I can't wait to get to my copy of Revolution, being such a history nerd, and with how much I loved A Northern Light!

    Fascinating story about her inspiration for this book!



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