Paris view: Sadness down in four notes
Posted on October 15, 2010
It is very rare that I get to read a book that immediately touches the right chord. Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution is such a book. Andi Alpers, her protagonist, grabbed me by the throat at the very first page and didn’t let go. I read Revolution in one go, not wanting it to stop. Not the words, not the music in it. Ever!
Revolution is about Andi Alpers, a gifted musician and student. She is a senior at a prestigious private school in Brooklyn when grief threatens to destroy her life. She is angry with her father for moving on with his life, heartbroken by the pain she sees in her mother, who’s not able to cope with life anymore, and she blames herself for the death of her little brother, Truman. On the verge of getting expelled from school, Andi’s father forces her to join him on a trip to Paris. In Paris Andi accidently comes across a diary in an old guitar case, the diary of Alexandrine Paradis, an actress living in Paris during the French Revolution.
Under Donnelly’s crafty hands B-flat, F, G, E, the four saddest notes ever written, resonate in your ears as they become illustrative of Andi’s life, and when Donnelly transposes them into Alexandrine’s 18th century life she makes sure that those four notes will never leave you again. What Donnelly does in this compelling novel is what Andi wishes upon her father: she lets you hear the music, or in Andi’s words: ‘I’m wishing. Wishing he could hear music. Wishing he could hear me. Wishing that for just a minute or two, he would close his eyes and listen to Malherbeau’s gorgeous Concerto in A Minor, the Fireworks Concerto, and feel what I feel. Feel the sound echoing in the hollow of his bones. Feel his heart find its rhythm in quarters and eights. Wishing he could hear that bleak metallic sample in Radiohead’s “Idioteque” and recognize the Tristan Chord, the one Wagner used at the beginning of Tristan and Isolde. He might know that that particular sample came from a Paul Lansky piece, composed for computer, called “mild und leise,” or he might not, but he’d surely recognize that four-note bad-news chord.’
Read this book! Find its music on Booktunes! I am sure it will grab you as it grabbed me.