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A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly
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A Gathering Light (original 2003; edition 2003)

by Jennifer Donnelly

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,3251642,508 (4.02)166
Member:konallis
Title:A Gathering Light
Authors:Jennifer Donnelly
Info:London : Bloomsbury, 2004, c2003.
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:children's/young adult, historical fiction, ROOTs challenge, read 2013

Work details

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly (2003)

  1. 41
    The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (AmethystFaerie)
  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. 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.
  4. 21
    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (missmaddie)
    missmaddie: Similar topic - young women from the countryside trying to find romance and their identity.
  5. 00
    Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson (DimitraDaisy)
  6. 00
    An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser (konallis)
    konallis: Also based on the Grace Brown murder case.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 00
    Kit's Law by Donna Morrissey (Mareofthesea)
  10. 00
    The Girl in the Glass by Jeffrey Ford (ElaMatisse)
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» See also 166 mentions

English (162)  German (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (164)
Showing 1-5 of 162 (next | show all)
Interesting story of a difficult life. Quite realistic and true to its time. An education while still being very entertaining. The mystery was quite buried, more of a character study than a who-done-it. A bit of a challenge to follow the leaps back and forth in time. I was some frustrated by Mattie's infatuation with the local boy. Perhaps not so much of a problem for younger readers. ( )
  njcur | Jan 4, 2019 |
I just finished reading this for my YA Lit class for our historical fiction assignment. I really enjoyed it and thought the perspective is really unique. Mattie has a wonderful voice and the whole novel is filled with really dutiful language. I will say I was kind of let down by the ending. It felt as if Donnelly spent all this time building the characters and embellishing the plot and filling the story with magical language and then realized, "Oh no this book is already 400 pages long...time to wrap it up". The end seemed uncharacteristic of the girl you spent the whole novel getting to know. I did, however, really enjoy the story as a whole and Donnelly's love for the time period and scandal of the Grace Brown murder is evident throughout. Hearing Mattie's voice and witnessing her come-of-age alone is worth the read. ( )
  EliseLaForge | Nov 20, 2018 |
A gripping coming of age story about a girl who wants to be a writer. Brilliantly woven romance, history, and murder mystery that keeps you coming back for more ( )
  KatelynSBolds | Nov 12, 2018 |
I've said it before and I'll say it again, Jennifer is a genius! ( )
  jlydia | Jun 25, 2018 |
This is a good read for those who like to read about American life circa 1850-1920. The author definitely has story telling talent, but for one who likes the real story, I was disappointed with how little of the book actually dealt with the murder. The book is more of a testimony to the way of life for women in the early 1900's. Just about every female role plays itself out in this story. The heroine is Mattie, a talented writer, who is encouraged by her teacher to forego the life of a farmer's wife to attend college in NYC. Mattie stumbles in and out of the lives of the women around her and must decide if she wants to embark on the same journey with her handsome beau Royal, or leave it all behind. The feminist movement is still many decades away and as the book makes clear, you can't have both.

Among the supporting roles are the poor white single mom who cranks out babies who have a striking resemblance to one of the town's "upstanding" citizens, the black woman who is making a decent living despite the prejudices that still exist, the friend who is overwhelmed by the responsibilities of being a new mother, the teacher who loses her husband and job because her writing doesn't conform to the preconceived standard, and the murder victim who pays the ultimate price for her choice.

This would be a great book for a book club discussion, but it might not be an easy sell for teens. Again--the murder needed more prominence in the book and the book blurb makes it sound like it's mainly about the murder. ( )
  valorrmac | May 15, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 162 (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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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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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

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.
Haiku summary

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:31 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Based on a real murder at the turn of the century, this debut novel is a powerful and moving coming-of-age book. Mattie is torn between her familial responsibilities, her desire to be a writer, and the excitement of a first romance. Her dilemmas and choices are quietly reflected in the life of a young woman found drowned in a lake, a woman that Mattie only gets to know through reading her letters. When finally the tales of Mattie and the drowned girl merge, their stories beautifully combine in a brilliant and perfect conclusion.

» see all 5 descriptions

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