Monday, August 4, 2008

Lisa's Review: A Northern Light

Harry Potter aside, young adult novels don't often find themselves in my To-Be-Read pile, but my current fascination with all things Jennifer Donnelly, lead me to pick up A Northern Light. A simple novel, easy to read and understand, that is set in the early 1900's. Here, we meet Mattie Gokey, the eldest daughter of a poor farmer in the Adirondacks, who is working in a hotel to earn extra money, though she is unsure of what she plans to do with her earnings.

Mattie happens to be working at the hotel when Grace Brown, a real person whose story is told in An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, disappears during a boat ride. Shortly, before her disappearance, Grace handed Mattie some letters. This re-writing of history and mixing of fact with fiction is quite clever and it allows Grace's senseless death to serve a higher purpose in Mattie's journey.

Mattie has some decisions to make. She is struggling with a promise she made to her dying mother to look after her father and her siblings. Does she, a self proclaimed plain girl, marry Royal, the handsome and ambitious second son of neighboring farmer, who doesn't understand or care for her love of words, reading books and writing stories? Or does she selfishly focus on that love, the one which got her accepted to Barnard College, miles away in New York City.

I liked that Donnelly conspicuously incorporated vocabulary words into the novel, which we learned the meanings to via Mattie's word of the day games. I'm all for learning while we read. That simple device proves quite enjoyable.

Though, I prefer the more 'adult' books that Donnelly has written, this is a stunning coming of age novel that examines the themes of poverty, racism and feminism in a real and powerful way.

Final Take: 4.25/5

Related Reviews:
The Tea Rose - Lisa
The Winter Rose - Julie Lisa


Marg August 4, 2008 at 6:32 PM  

I am a bit like you in that I liked this book, but really love her Rose trilogy books! I am waiting very impatiently for the third book in the trilogy to come out but it seems as though it will be more than a year for it to finally come out!

Julie August 4, 2008 at 8:41 PM  

This in in my TBR pile after finding it by chance at a used bookstore.

I'm glad you liked it.

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