Friday, March 25, 2011

Review for A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

A Northern LightA Northern Light

Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Harcourt
Source: Public Library
Challenge: For the Love of YA, Library, and 350 page

"Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. Desperate for money, she takes a job at the Glenmore, where hotel guest Grace Brown asks her to burn a bundle of secret letters. But when Grace's drowned body is fished from the lake, Mattie discovers the letters reveal the grim truth behind a murder.

Set in 1906 against a backdrop of the murder that inspired
Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, this astonishing novel weaves romance, history, and a murder mystery into something moving, real, and wholly original" - Goodreads

   I am now officially a fan of historical fiction. Especially if the writer is Jennifer Donnelly. In this description of the book, you would assume that the main event is the murder. Right? Well, no. In the chapters it alternates between her life before the Glenmore and after. It focuses on Mattie's life mostly. But the mystery (even though I had figured it out at the first mentioning) is intriguing and based on a true murder.

Mattie dreams of being a writer and collects all the words she can. But that dream of hers soon gets out of reach when events start to unfold. From her mother dying to her getting engaged.... she's struggling to find out what to do. I really enjoyed the character of Mattie. You can feel how much she loves words and books (see how I can relate??) and how much she misses her mother. How she has conflicting feelings for Royal (the boy who's handsome but, erm, well kinda dull, shallow, boring, only cares about farming. Catch my drift?), and especially when she keeps on trying to make it to her goal. It's inspiring. The other characters play out well too. Sometimes I got lost because they were just so many names! But after awhile you get to understand.

The murder itself is tragic and well it added something to the story. I do not like to include spoilers but this one I just can't hold back (hightlight if you want to read--just saying it's not 'really a spoiler'): Mattie ends up reading the letters (big surprise right?), and through them we get a sense of Grace Brown's character. I loved how Mattie connected the dots, the solver in me was pleased. If you like solving and mysteries, try this one on for size.

The writing style was simply beautiful. The descriptions put you right in the scenes. The North Woods are just beautiful! Overall, Jennifer Donnelly did and amazing job again. I do recommend this book, it's a fine read!


When summer comes to the North Woods, time slows down. And some days it stops altogether. The sky, gray and lowering for much of the year, becomes an ocean of blue, so vast and brilliant you can't help but stop what you're doing—pinning wet sheets to the line maybe, or shucking a bushel of corn on the back steps—to stare up at it. Locusts whir in the birches, coaxing you out of the sun and under the boughs, and the heat stills the air, heavy and sweet with the scent of balsam.
As I stand here on the porch of the Glenmore, the finest hotel on all of Big Moose Lake, I tell myself that today—Thursday, July 12, 1906—is such a day. Time has stopped, and the beauty and calm of this perfect afternoon will never end. The guests up from New York, all in their summer whites, will play croquet on the lawn forever. Old Mrs. Ellis will stay on the porch until the end of time, rapping her cane on the railing for more lemonade. The children of doctors and lawyers from Utica, Rome, and Syracuse will always run through the woods, laughing and shrieking, giddy from too much ice cream.
I believe these things. With all my heart. For I am good at telling myself lies.