Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Northern Light; Jennifer Donnelly



Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Publication Year: 2002
Publisher: Recorded Books
Edition: Audiobook 
Reader: Hope Davis (excellent)
Source: Library
Date Completed: 2/9/2011
Setting: Upstate New York
Rating: 5/5 stars
Recommend: Yes 
 
The year is 1906 and the sixteen year old Mattie Gokey finds herself caring for her three younger sisters, after her mother dies from cancer seven months earlier. She also must help her father on the farm, and keep up her good grades in school as well, so that she can go to college and pursue her love of writing and literature. 

Matttie loves books and words, and her dictionary is her most prized possession. She has a new word for everything, and each day she learns yet another new word. Each new word is worked into the story line of each chapter, which she shares with her friend Weaver Smith. Weaver is the son of the only black woman in the area, who like Mattie has dreams of going off to college in New York City. Weaver is intelligent and fights hard for his dream of a better life, but the road is not easy as racism rears its ugly head.

When the story begins, Mattie is working as a waitress at the elegant Glenmore Hotel, located in the Adirondacks in upstate New York. She is trying to earn money for college. A young woman has just been pulled from Big Moose Lake where she had been boating with her lover.  Mattie is shocked when she later learns that the woman is Grace Brown, who earlier in the day had handed Mattie some letters to burn. Mattie, too busy to give the letters much thought, had put the letters in her apron.

The story's narrative moves between two time lines. One is the story of Maggie's life on the farm, after the death of her mother. The other is the tragic story of Grace Brown. It is Grace's story which helps Maggie to come to terms with some tough decisions in her own life.
 
There is so much to love about this story-- rich historical novel, a coming of age story with a heroine you will love and root for. There is a supportive teacher, Miss Wilcox, who encourages Mattie, a story with just the right amount of suspense, all set in a time period when change and new possibilities for women and minorities were about to take place.  This novel should be woven into today's high school curriculum. I really loved this audio book, and the reader, Hope Davis, was simply fantastic. Highly Recommended.

27 comments:

  1. I LOVED this book, never heard it on audio though. Such an amazing author. her new novel Revolution is amazing as well.

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  2. Oh I should see if my library has this audio - it sounds fabulous!

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  3. I just loved this book! I'm glad you enjoyed it also!

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  4. I have been wanting to read this for so long. I may have to check the audiobook out since that TBR pile is smaller. Either way, I am determined to read it this year.

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  5. My favourite book of er... 2009 I think it was. Adored it. Glad you liked it too.

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  6. I read this one several years ago and loved it! I have Donnelly's newest book on my TBR pile....I just need more time.

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  7. I am still trying to get my hands on even one of her books (failed upto now!)

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  8. Mattie must have been a woman before her time to be working to go to college in 1906! The book sounds fabulous.

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  9. I love the sound of this book. I love the setting and Mattie intrigues, especially her word addiction.

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  10. How cool, someone writing a book about writing a book! Have a great weekend!

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  11. I like the sound of this book and the issues that it tackles. It seems like a really richly nuanced read, and I think I am going to have to add this one to my list. I have also been reading a lot of great reviews of all the other books Donnelly has put out, so I am very intrigued by this review. Thanks!

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  12. This one sounds fabulous. I've always been drawn to coming of age stories, and I'm on quite a historical fiction kick too. I'll look for this one on audio too!

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  13. I just finished this & need to write my review. I didn't love it as you did. I was really looking forward to it, but I missed the fact that it was YA novel before I started it, so my expectations were a little different. Glad you had a good experience.

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  14. This sounds like a great historical piece about the days of my great-grandparents!

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  15. Diane, you are making me want to throw my other book plans away this weekend and pick this one up instead! I have the printed version here and I know I've been remiss in not picking it up sooner. I also have Revolution and have heard wonderful things about that one as well.

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  16. I was excited to read your review of this book which is high on my stack of books to read in the coming month! If I didn't alread have a paperback copy of this book, I'd seriously consider listening to the audio version since I'm a huge fan of Hope Davis and saw your "excellent" next to her name. I'm so glad you enjoyed A Northern Light. Great review, Diane!
    ~ Amy

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  17. Loved this one too! I hope you get to her newest, Revolution, as it is fantastic. I read it but have heard that the audio is great.

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  18. I've been thinking about reading this one, so I'm glad to see you enjoyed it.

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  19. Rhapsody in Books has me all fired up to try this author. I'm going with the Tea Rose though. If she is as good as she says, I'm sure I'll get to this one day too.

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  20. This really sounds good. I'm going to add it to my list.

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  21. This book has been on my shelf for years and your 5 star review has inspired me to go look for it tomorrow!

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  22. I agree with everything you wrote. This was my first introduction to Jennifer Donnelly...loved it!

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  23. Oh darn--I had this in my hands today at Half-Price Books but put it back. I'm going to have to get back there and hope they still have it!

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  24. I thought this one was fantastic too! It was such a pleasant surprise, being the first book I have read by this author.

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  25. Oooh it sounds good! I borrowed it once but never got around to reading it. Now I regret it! I'll have to borrow it once more.

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  26. I’ve recently read my first Donnelly – The Tea Rose – and really liked her style. This also seems right up my alley. Thanks for flagging!

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  27. I picked up a copy of this book because Cath (Read-Warbler) named it her book of the year (she says 2009). I've been meaning to read it, so your wonderful review has moved it nearer the top of my TBR shelf. Thanks! it does sound very interesting.

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