Versailles and the Sun KIng

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Versailles and the Sun KIng

Revolution

This novel written by Jennifer Donnelly tells a story of two girls that are both going through a revolution. Andi and Alex are their names. Andi struggles to live each day as she suffers from depression and anger. Her brother was killed in an accident that she takes responsibility for and her father left their family. As a senior in Highschool she lost all motivation to complete her courses and overused prescription drugs as a way of coping with her pain. Her father caught wind of her struggles and took her away to Paris hoping this would motivate her to heal and finish her coursework. As Andi did not want to go, it later turned into one of the best things for her. At this point we are introduced to Alex. She is a young girl living through the hard times of the French Revolution. Alex worked for the royal family and her role was to keep young Louis Charles XVII company. The French Revolution was a period in history of political upheaval against the monarchy. That said it was a very stressful life they were living. Their relationship grew stronger and stronger until one day Louis Charles XVII was imprisoned after the death of his father. It then became clear to Alex that she had to do whatever she could to get him free. Even with her strong attempts she was unable to do so. She kept log of her experiences in a journal that gets lost in time until one day while in Paris Andi finds it and their worlds collide. Through Alex’s experience during the French Revolution Andi was able to overcome her own personal revolution.

Before the trip began we were lucky enough to Skype Jennifer Donnelly. This is something I will remember forever. As part of our coursework we prepared questions for her pertaining to the book. I think it is safe to say that this book was a favorite of the majority of the group. That said, we were all pretty excited to have the opportunity to discuss it with her. We asked her a variety of questions regarding her inspiration, preferences, and general thoughts on her work. As she answered all of our questions the most memorable part was when she was talking about her inspiration with such passion and excitement. She started off with the idea to write a historical novel after reading an article confirming the heart of Louis Charles XVII. It was not going as planned and slowly evolved into the story of Andi and Alex. She told us she was sitting in a coffee shop and suddenly these two girls came into her mind saying come see what I’m about, listen to my story. From there she let the girls speak to her and write the story. When she was talking about these girls it was as if they were her children, she absolutely loved them. It was very clear that she loves Paris. She recommended we touch and feel everything as there are so many ghosts within the city. While she talked about what inspired her she inspired all of us so much. She gave us a brand new appreciation for the book while getting us excited to be in Paris!

There were two main locations we had scheduled to tour for this book. The Palace of Versailles and the catacombs. Due to scheduling conflicts we were only able to see the Palace of Versailles. This was kind of a bummer for our group, but everyone was a trooper. I must say over the course of the trip we all became very good at rolling with the punches. Anyways, the Palace of Versailles is a symbol of the system of absolute monarchy. It was the center of political power until the beginning of the French Revolution when the royal family was forced to move back to Paris. In the story this is where Alex and Louis Charles XVII spent their time. When we arrived the first things I noticed were the size and the gold. It was huge and there was so much gold on the outside of the building. It was obvious that royalty lived there. Walking through the inside was quite the experience as it was crowded. Regardless it was still really interesting to see how the royal family lived and match the style with the time. I was most excited to see the famous hall of mirrors. This was significant in the story because it was a spot Louis Charles XVII had hid in during raids. I expected the hall to be literally a hall of just mirrors. Rather it was a big open hall with mirrors, chandeliers, portraits and statues. It was a beautiful part of the house. There is so much history that lays between the walls here it was a great experience to be there and soak it all in.

Although we only had two set places, over half of the book took place in Paris. So with just that alone we were able to recognize places mentioned in the book. For instance we climbed up the stairs at Sacre Coeur and got to look over the beautiful city of Paris. Our character Andi had that same experience. She watched the sunrise over the city with a boy. At this point in the book it was some of the first feeling and override of emotion she had experienced since before her brother was killed. Being there was a cool moment because it made me realize how could this place not spark some sort of emotion? And it had, for me and this character we had gotten to know so well. It was beautiful. There were many times in the story where Andi had it in her mind to commit suicide. Two of which happened at the Eiffel Tower and in the metro station. Both of these were very significant to me. I personally was so impressed with the Eiffel Tower, I could have gazed at it for hours. The overwhelming feeling of awe left me speechless. I was so happy here, and I find it hard to comprehend that someone could be so unhappy that they cannot even find happiness at a place like this. The other place was in the metro station. Andi and her friends were running through the tunnel trying to get to a party in the catacombs. They were racing the next train when it crossed Andis mind to just stand there. The metro station made me feel a bit trapped and suffocated. There is something about being in a small isolated area that will do that. This was so significant to me only because the helpless feeling of being trapped was how Andi lived her life and felt in the metro station just before trying to commit suicide.

I personally loved this book. I felt connected to the characters and was very into their story. Even with that love, I often wondered if it was all going to be worth it. I couldn’t make that extra connection in my head. After finishing the course, through the experiences, I found the answer. It was more than worth it. I feel as if I have gained so much new knowledge and enriched the old. I am very confident when I say that I couldn’t have learned it any other way. It was a bittersweet ending. The hard work was over, but so was the fun. Overall I am so glad I had the opportunity to go along on this journey.

-kelsey bakke