Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Book Summery:
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.

Book Review:
Even though I have finished the last chapter, turned the last page, and set this book aside, I can not move it from my mind. This is a story that will stay with you forever. Set in 1906, this book has it all; mystery, love, tragedy, betrayal, romance, and revelations. Told through the voice of young Mattie, her own story intricately woven with the murder of equally young Grace Brown. The backdrop of the story takes place in two different settings. One at Mattie's home, on the farm, and the other at the Glenmore Hotel (pictured above, the way it would look in the early 1900's), where Mattie works for the summer. Donnelly describes the Glenmore vividly. I can see the bustling kitchen and the overlook of the lake. The characters are just as vivid and diverse as one can imagine. They seemed to jump out of the pages and take on a life their own. I also loved the touch of feminism that Donnelly provides. It's not as marked as Atwood's writing, but it's tangible, and I just loved the way Donnelly highlighted it. It was more of a feature, rather than the main focal point. I highly recommend this book to all readers who are looking for a good escape back into time.

Jennifer Donnelly may as well consider me a lifetime reader. She has renewed my thirst for historical fiction. Her prose is beautiful, honest, and will stir many emotions among readers. I highly anticipate her newest novel, Revolution, (pictured above, to the right) which is currently sitting on my shelf, begging to be read. Find out more about Donnelly, at her website (found here). You can also read more about Grace Brown's murder on the Glenmore's website here.

Favorite Quote:
"Now, as I wait for my train, Grace's words echo in my memory. I've been bidding my good-by to some places to-day. There are so many nooks, dear, and all of them so dear to me. I have lived here nearly all my life...Oh, dear, you don't realize what all of this is to me. I know I shall never see any of them again..." (p. 377-378)

Cover Art Commentary:
Just. gorgeous. I love how Mattie is the central focus, with the lake softly lying on the bottom. Very fitting for the overall story. I much prefer my paperback cover to the hardcover, which is pictured above, to the left.

Overall Rating:


  1. Great review and love the covers too.

  2. I thought A Northern Light was so beautiful. I loved it!

  3. I read A Northern Light a couple of years ago when it first came out, and I remembered that I really enjoyed it, but I can't for the life of me remember hardly any of book itself! Does that ever happen to you? Lol.

  4. I need to get my hands on this book. I need a good escape back into time!! ;) Great review.

  5. My dear, that positively gave me shivers! You've got me totally intrigued.

  6. I love this author!! You will love Revolution, it was pretty amazing..:)

    I also love how you put in pics with your reviews

  7. I love love love this book! This completely caught me off guard because I wasn't expecting too much from it when I first picked it up.