Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelley


Mattie Gokey promised now dead Grace Brown that she will burn Grace's letters. Curious, Mattie instead reads the letters and discovers the mystery of her lifetime. This novel describes life in the early 20th century as a farmer and student. Mattie is an intelligent student that is struggling with many problems. Including dealing with her mothers death and her father's strict parenting.


This is a remarkable book. I enjoyed this book, despite not usually liking the historical fiction genre, because this novel contains characters with the same feelings and motivations as my generation, except in it's set of a different time period. I can relate to Mattie because she is also a bookworm and cares for her sisters and is unsure what she should accomplish in her life. She is unsure is she should be responsible and stay with her family or do what she wants and go to college. Her fellow characters, especially her father, are against her aspirations to go to college. Mattie has responsibility to help her family because her mother is died, her only brother left and she is the oldest daughter; the one in charge.

I found this book to be pretty normal and not too exciting till the part of the novel where she realizes what really happened to Grace Brown in the present sections of the novel and starts working at Glenmore during the past sections of the novel. The first few times I read this book, I felt confused because the  narrative structure is constantly changing times and every chapter present an entirely new event. Now that I enjoyed this book enough, I figured out the secret to understanding the narrative structure. I am a little embarrassed that I never noticed before this time that each past chapter has a word of the day before it and each present chapter has nothing signally a new chapter besides a blank space.

The buildup of the novel was a bit dull because this novel was following the writing style of establishing the characters for the majority of the novel and less on plot. Still, there are many enjoyable stories in the first part of the novel. I liked the scenes where Weaver and Mattie word duel, Mattie and Royal talking each other and the story of how Mattie's father and mother eloped together. Mattie's parents are amazing foils to the love or hate relationship of Grace Brown and Chester. Sadly, at that point the novel is not amazing because it was slow and all the events blended together. None the events stood out and captured my imagination. The beginning was, to put it plainly, non-rememberable.

In contrast, the last part of the novel is moving and amazing. This part of the novel is why, I think, it won an award. In this part, horrible events take place and secrets to mysterious are revealed at perfect times. The author's writing is spot on and describes vividly all the events that occur. Mattie finally decides to stop listening to what everyone tells her to do, and starts making her own decisions based on what she deserves. I found the ending moving and felt sad when it ended. I was glad, though, because everything was not perfect, but ended well enough. This part includes a brief escape from the serious tone to a funny prank that Mattie and her friends do that is hilarious to read. I love this part because it concluded all the events into a poignant resolution that was plausible. I love how I was able to relate and care about all the characters and understand there pains. This is definitely the one historical fiction novel that should not be missed.

4 Stars!

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad to see that you liked this one. I recently read Revolution and I can't wait to read more by Jennifer Donnelly. :)



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