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A Northern Light (2003)

by Jennifer Donnelly

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,5011702,587 (4.02)176
In 1906, sixteen-year-old Mattie, determined to attend college and be a writer against the wishes of her father and fiance, takes a job at a summer inn where she discovers the truth about the death of a guest. Based on a true story.
Recently added byprivate library, Arina40, DanielleBates, ShannonRose4, giveuspaws, CotyMK, TateTito, clio21000, AK148
  1. 51
    The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (AmethystFaerie)
  2. 31
    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (missmaddie)
    missmaddie: Similar topic - young women from the countryside trying to find romance and their identity.
  3. 20
    Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (Caramellunacy)
    Caramellunacy: Dairy Queen and A Northern Light are both about a young woman doing something unconventional (in Dairy Queen deciding to coach/play football)that leads her to reexamine her family relationships. There was a very similar feel to the two girls' reactions to their fathers and the burdens their rural lives placed on their dreams to do something different.… (more)
  4. 20
    Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (FutureMrsJoshGroban)
    FutureMrsJoshGroban: Both are excellent stories about strong, intelligent young women desperately trying to leave their difficult home lives behind and get into college and a new life.
  5. 10
    An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser (konallis)
    konallis: Also based on the Grace Brown murder case.
  6. 00
    Thursday's Child by Sonya Hartnett (shaunie)
  7. 00
    Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson (DimitraDaisy)
  8. 00
    The Girl in the Glass by Jeffrey Ford (ElaMatisse)
  9. 00
    A Higher Geometry by Sharelle Byars Moranville (meggyweg)
    meggyweg: Two historical novels about a young girl about to graduate from school, trying to decide between college and marriage.
  10. 00
    Kit's Law by Donna Morrissey (Mareofthesea)
  11. 00
    Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey (Mareofthesea)
    Mareofthesea: Both are haunting novels about making difficult decisions and trying to break away from what is expected by others.

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» See also 176 mentions

English (168)  German (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (170)
Showing 1-5 of 168 (next | show all)
this is one of my favorite historical fiction novels for young adults.

New York state-1906, 16 year-old Mattie wants badly to attend college to become a writer. While working at the inn to earn money for college, a guest named Grace Brown asks her to burn a stack of secret letters. Shortly after the request, Grace's body is found in the nearby lake; might the letters hold the key to her murder?
( )
  ShannonRose4 | Sep 15, 2020 |
ALA top 10 Best Books for Young Adults Booklist Editor"s Choice Booklist top 10Youth 1st Novel Book Sense 76 Top 10 books for teens Junior library guild selection NY public library book for the teen age Parent's guide young adult honour book Publishers weekly best book of the year School library journal best book of the year Carnegie medal LA times book prize Michael l. Printz award honour book.
way too long. main character kind of dumb, very naive. ( )
  mahallett | Jun 11, 2020 |
A beautifully written intriguing coming of age novel. Inspired by the murder of Grace Brown in 1906, this is the story of Mattie, a young girl who dreams of becoming a writer, but feels bound by the promise she made to her dying mother. to look after her younger sisters. When Mattie is handed some letters by Grace, she promises to burn them, but then when Grace is found drowned the next day, Mattie starts to read the letters to find out what Grace's story is. As Mattie learns more about Grace, she us decide what is really important to her.
  MaryBrigidTurner | Apr 22, 2020 |
Sixteen year old Mattie Gokey dreams of moving to New York City, attending college and becoming a writer but she's trapped. Her mother died, her old brother ran away and Mattie is forced to help her father take care of the farm and raise her younger sisters. Yet she refuses to give up her dream. She takes a job working at a nearby resort to earn money to pay for travel expenses to New York City and along the way begins to give up on her dreams and settles on the idea of marriage and family. Then, a woman's body is pulled from the lake the resort and, through the dead woman's letters, Mattie realizes that she was murdered.

I LOVED this book. Jennifer Donnelly has a beautiful way with words and the story was very compelling. I loved Mattie and how she never really gave up on her dreams. Maybe it is my own dreams of someday writing that made me love Mattie so much. I also loved the way that Donnelly used words and their definitions to tell the story. That just played to the English major in me. It's a beautifully told story and Donnelly is a master of language. ( )
  melrailey | Apr 7, 2020 |
Advance copy ( )
  ME_Dictionary | Mar 19, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 168 (next | show all)
Donnelly's novel begins with high drama drawn from history: Grace Brown's body is discovered, and her murder is the framework for this coming-of-age story set in upstate New York in 1906. Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey is a waitress at the Glenmore Hotel when Brown is murdered. As she learns Brown's story, her narrative shifts between the goings-on at the hotel and her previous year at home: her toil at the farm; her relationship with her harsh, remote father; her pain at being forbidden to accept a college scholarship. "Plain and bookish," Mattie wonders if she must give up her dream of writing if she marries. Donnelly adds a crowd of intriguing, well-drawn secondary characters whose stories help Mattie define her own desires and sense of self.
added by kthomp25 | editBooklist, Gillian Engberg

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jennifer Donnellyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Jonge, Jenny deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"And if the many sayings of the wise
Teach of submission I will not submit
But with a spirit all unreconsciled
Flash an unquenched defiance to the stars."

Adelaide Crapsey
Saranac Lake, 1913
For Megan, who escaped from the enchanted forest
First words
When summer comes to the North Woods, time slows down.
It was one more hard and hopeless thing, and I was tired of hard and hopeless things.
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In 1906, sixteen-year-old Mattie, determined to attend college and be a writer against the wishes of her father and fiance, takes a job at a summer inn where she discovers the truth about the death of a guest. Based on a true story.

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Book description
It's 1906 and 16-year-old Mattie Gokey is at a crossroads in her life. She's escaped the overwhelming responsibilities of helping to run her father's brokedown farm in exchange for a paid summer job as a serving girl at a fancy hotel in the Adirondacks. She's saving as much of her salary as she can, but she's having trouble deciding how she's going to use the money at the end of the summer. Mattie's gift is for writing and she's been accepted to Barnard College in New York City, but she's held back by her sense of responsibility to her family--and by her budding romance with handsome-but-dull Royal Loomis. Royal awakens feelings in Mattie that she doesn't want to ignore, but she can't deny her passion for words and her desire to write.

At the hotel, Mattie gets caught up in the disappearance of a young couple who had gone out together in a rowboat. Mattie spoke with the young woman, Grace Brown, just before the fateful boating trip, when Grace gave her a packet of love letters and asked her to burn them. When Grace is found drowned, Mattie reads the letters and finds that she holds the key to unraveling the girl's death and her beau's mysterious disappearance. Grace Brown's story is a true one (it's the same story told in Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy and in the film adaptation, A Place in the Sun), and author Jennifer Donnelly masterfully interweaves the real-life story with Mattie's, making her seem even more real.
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