by Jennifer Donnelly
Summary: BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.
PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.
Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.
This book was absolutely amazing. And so this review is probably going to be absolutely terrible, because the reaons why the book is amazing are hard to pin point and put into words.
I've been kind of avoiding historical fiction recently, I got sick of the genre -- but this book, it's made me love HF again. Maybe it's because the book alternates between present day and the past, so it's not all HF, it has contemporary fiction thrown in too (so it's kind of a book that has something for everyone, even if you don't like HF this book could probably win you over). I loved the way the book was told, how it effortlessly combined Andi and Alex's stories, even though they lived hundreds of years apart.
I adored Andi's character, she was really complicated and in some ways, I wished I could be more like her... and I'm not really sure why because she is flawed, she has all this pain in her past and she doesn't always deal with it in the best of ways. But she's strong, maybe that's it, she's a strong character and even though she has all of this agony, she finds art in her agony and has all of this passion for music and there's something, well, fearless about her. She's not fearless, but something about her was definitely fearless (if that makes sense). And I loved that. She's a brilliant character. I loved Alex and Virgil and Nathan and some of the minor characters too, but Andi was my favourite (although, Virgil is definitely a fictional boy I would very much like to keep, he can sing me to sleep any day... well, if he were real).
The plot of the book has a lot of actual history woven into it, stuff about the French Revolution and the heart of Louis-Charles (that part is so beyond heartbreaking) and a sign of a good book is that it makes me want to learn more about things. After reading this book, I added a bunch of books on the French Revolution to my wish list and I now really, really, really want to visit Paris and I want to see the catacombs and I looked up a bunch of the music that Andi mentions in the book too and it's this book that made me crave to know more about all that stuff when I wasn't particularly interested in it before.
Has to be mentioned: I'm kind of in awe of Jennifer's writing -- I mean, I read well written books all of the time... but even in those, the writing doesn't really stand out. But in this book, the writing itself stands out, she strings words together in such a way that it gives the writing personality. She has an almost poetic way with words and I found myself sticking bits of paper in a bunch of pages that had quotes I loved on them. Like this one, I love this quote:
"Be careful what you show the world. You never know when the wolf is watching."
As I warned, this review was terrible -- but the book is fantastic. Five out of five stars. The kind of book that had me still reading well into the early hours of the morning, promising myself that I would sleep after just one more chapter... I broke that promise repeatedly while reading this book and it was worth it.
As part of her blog tour, Jennifer has written up a guest post on her inspiration for the book and that'll be up on Wednesday.
Oh, and this is the US cover, the one with the key is the UK cover: