March 18, 2006
Excerpts of reviews of Jennifer Donnelly’s A Northern Light (and A Gathering Light in Britain):
Lisa Prolman, School Library Journal: This is a breathtaking tale, complex and often earthy, wrapped around a true story. … The protagonist tells her tale through flashback and time shifts from past to present. Readers feel her fears for her friend Weaver , the first freeborn child in his family , when he is beaten for being black and his college savings are stolen, and enjoy their love of words as they engage in language duels. Finally, they’ll experience her awakening when she realizes that she cannot live her life for others. Donnelly’s characters ring true to life, and the meticulously described setting forms a vivid backdrop to this finely crafted story. An outstanding choice for historical-fiction fans, particularly those who have read Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy.
Gillian Engberg, Booklist: In an intelligent, colloquial voice that speaks with a writer’s love of language and an observant eye, Mattie details the physical particulars of people’s lives as well as deeper issues of race, class, and gender as she strains against family and societal limitations. Donnelly adds a crowd of intriguing, well-drawn secondary characters whose stories help Mattie define her own desires and sense of self. Many teens will connect with Mattie’s deep yearning for independence and for stories, like her own, that are frank, messy, complicated, and inspiring.
From kidzworld.com: If you’re a fan of mystery novels, A Northern Light really delivers a nice twist. The story is set in the early 1900s, so at first you might find it hard to relate to Mattie, but in the end, she’s facing the same dilemmas that we all face. Are we dating the right person? Are our parents being unfair? Should we follow our dreams? It’s definitely worth picking up.
Dinah Hall, The Sunday Telegraph, London: Nobody got fed while I read A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly. If George Clooney had walked in to the room I would have told him to come back later when I’d finished. When I slept I returned to it in my dreams. It’s an extreme reaction to a book that is on the surface as placid and gentle as the lakes and hills of the turn-of-the-20th-century Adirondacks where it is set but then this novel is the very definition of “all-consuming.” … Donnelly captures period and place with almost supernatural skill, and even the most minor of her characters are so vivid that you find yourself talking out loud to them.
Payal Kapadia, The Japan Times: Donnelly finds scope for fiction within the confines of fact by asking one question: What if? What if Grace Brown had met a girl called Mattie the evening before she died? … It’s as though Donnelly uses her imagination like a shovel and goes digging. Buried in all those “what if” questions, she finds the story of an ordinary farming girl called Mattie and makes us care about what happens to her. … Cleverly, Donnelly draws out an artful parallel between the lives of Grace and Mattie. In Grace’s conflicts, Mattie finds resolution for her own dilemmas. It is as though in Grace’s dying, she learns to live.
Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation