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A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
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A Northern Light (2003)

by Jennifer Donnelly

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,7841472,103 (4.04)151
  1. 60
    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (InfectiousOptimist)
  2. 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)
  3. 31
    The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (AmethystFaerie)
  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. 00
    An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser (konallis)
    konallis: Also based on the Grace Brown murder case.
  6. 00
    Paper Quake: A Puzzle by Kathryn Reiss (InfectiousOptimist)
    InfectiousOptimist: Both books are young adult historical fiction novels that have a bit of mystery, and keep the reader drawn in from beginning to end.
  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.
  12. 13
    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (missmaddie)
    missmaddie: Similar topic - young women from the countryside trying to find romance and their identity.
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English (145)  German (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (147)
Showing 1-5 of 145 (next | show all)
Set in the Adirondacks of 1906, readers are introduced to Mattie, her rough life as the oldest of 4 girls forced to care for her father, the farm, and her sisters when her mother dies of cancer as well as to her best friend Weaver, the only African American in their town. Weaver also hopes to go to college one day, as the two of them share a love for learning and a dream of making something of their lives. Despite both being accepted at N.Y. colleges, racism and small mindedness conspire to keep them from their dreams. When Grace, a young tourist girl, is murdered at the summer resort where they work, Mattie is determined to find a way out of their dead end lives for both herself and Weaver. ( )
  ShouldIReadIt | Sep 26, 2014 |
I don't know when the last time was that I've given a book the ultimate glory of being rated 5 stars, but A Northern Light really is fitting for this. Historical fiction has always been one of my favorite genres, but as of late, I haven't exactly been blown away by any of the previous books.

This book has stolen the title of being one of my favorite historical fiction books not only this year, but of my entire life. The main character is lovable, the mystery is gripping, and the writing superb. I'd recommend this novel to feminists and history lovers everywhere. ( )
  Summer_Missfictional | May 23, 2014 |
Started off a little boring, but I ended up really hooked during the last two thirds. I wasn't too pleased with the very ending as it seemed to contradict the entire message of the story, but I'm probably in the minority. ( )
  AmyJ96 | Jan 15, 2014 |
I've read several of Jennifer Donnelly's other books & enjoyed them, and despite knowing this one had received high acclaim, for some reason this one just hadn't made it to the top of Mt. TBR. And now that it has, I almost feel disappointed. I can't put my finger on why. It's well-written, it showcases a strong female character (who loves books!), & it interweaves some historic fiction. Like the last novel of Donnelly's I read, Revolution, I liked it, but didn't love it, although for different reasons. I think ultimately this one just fell a little flat for me. I had such high hopes, and it was good, but....something was just missing. Perhaps more resolution at the end. I liked this one, but not sure it was my favorite of hers. ( )
  indygo88 | Jan 6, 2014 |
I just remembered having read this charming young adult novel quite a few years ago. My opinion on this book may, therefore, be of litte use, but the fact that I add this book after all means that it is a book that is somewhat worth remembering.

The main character is a smart girl named Mattie, who has a passion for the learning of new words. To achieve this, she opens the dictionary at a random page every day and picks a word, which she challenges herself to use over the course of the remains of the day. A nifty little idea that works well throughout the entire novel.

The specifics have fled from my mind like bunnies from a pitbull, but still. A charming novel of which I keep good memories. ( )
  WorldInColour | Oct 12, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 145 (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.
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Epigraph
"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
Dedication
For Megan, who escaped from the enchanted forest
First words
When summer comes to the North Woods, time slows down.
Quotations
It was one more hard and hopeless thing, and I was tired of hard and hopeless things.
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Disambiguation notice
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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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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0152053107, Paperback)

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.

Mattie's frank voice reveals much about poverty, racism, and feminism at the turn of the twentieth century. She witnesses illness and death at a range far closer than most teens do today, and she's there when her best friend Minnie gives birth to twins. Mattie describes Minnie's harrowing labor with gut-wrenching clarity, and a visit with Minnie and the twins a few weeks later dispels any romance from the reality of young motherhood (and marriage). Overall, readers will get a taste of how bitter--and how sweet--ordinary life in the early 1900s could be. Despite the wide variety of troubles Mattie describes, the book never feels melodramatic, just heartbreakingly real. (14 and older) --Jennifer Lindsay

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:28 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

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.

» see all 4 descriptions

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