Friday, April 17, 2009

A Northern Light

by Jennifer Donnelly

It is 1906 and Mattie Gokey is trying to learn how to stand up like a man -- even though she’s a sixteen-year-old girl. At her summer job at a resort on Big Moose Lake in the Adirondack mountains, she will earn enough money to make something of her life. But Mattie’s worries and plans are cast into a cold light when the drowned body of Grace Brown turns up – a young woman who gave Mattie a packet of love letters, letters that convince Mattie that the drowning was no accident.
summary from Jennifer Donnelly's site

I saw this book at Half-Priced books and thought it looked interesting, so I put it on hold at the library.

I found this book enjoyable. Mattie is a gifted writer, and her teacher encourages her to go to school in New York City. Unfortunately, her mother has passed away, her brother has taken off, and Mattie feels like she needs to stick around and take care of her 3 sisters and their father. Plus, there's handsome (but dull) Royal Loomis who would like to marry Mattie.

Weaver, Mattie's best friend and the only black kid in the area, is also a fascinating character. I wish he hadn't been so bull headed - he was a bright kid. It didn't necessary ring true that he would cause some of the problems he did, yet his desire for fairness and rightness is incredibly endearing. I hope he does go to law school and succeeds at his dreams (even if he is a fictional character...)

I enjoyed the passages about reading (I copied several quotes down, returned the book to the library, and succeeded at deleting said quotes. Sigh.). There is a great conversation between Mattie and her teacher about how Jane Austin is a liar :)

I have never read An American Tragedy, which is kind of a background story, but I generally know what happens. I found the letters that Grace leaves in Mattie's control.

My biggest beef with this book was the back and forth between Mattie's past and the present. This format seems to be real popular at the moment, but it just doesn't work for me. We get to an interesting part and suddenly we switch time periods. It's frustrating for me. I've never attempted it, but I would imagine the story would be just as good if we had started at the beginning and ended at the end instead of jumping back and forth.

I'm glad I picked this one up. It's historical fiction, and it's a great coming of age story.

3.5 out of 5 stars


Laura H said...

Glad you reviewed this one. I listened to it a couple of months ago.
I actually liked the back and forth story line. I never read a book like that. It made it hard to follow (especially if your listening and cant look back in a book) but it kept me on my toes. I think maybe the story might have just been OK with out the crazy jumping around.
Untill the end I didnt realize about the true parts of the story and that made it even better for me.

Fyrefly said...

I've read this one, and while I thought it was pretty good, I wasn't blown away by it. I like Donnelly's adult books (The Tea Rose and The Winter Roses - they're both historical romances) much better.