Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Title: A Northern Light
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Graphia
Published: 2004
Pages: 408

Rating - 8 out of 10

Nestled in New York's Adirondack Mountains in 1906, Mattie has begun a new job at an expensive hotel. After spending so many years trapped working on her father's dismal farm lands, she feels intoxicated and frightened at her new-found freedom. A gifted writer, she is accepted to Barnard College in New York City, and yet feels held back by a responsibility to help her impoverished family and a budding romance with a local boy.

This honest, powerful book really surprised me. I had picked up another YA novel expecting some light reading, but Donnelly writes with mature, pitch-perfect depth and force. She doesn't shy away from the gritty aspects of poverty, murder, racism, and more. One of the most striking scenes in the book was one in which Mattie assists a local midwife in a particularly bloody childbirth.
The heroine's problems, feeling torn between her family and furthering herself at school rang true, and Mattie is a refreshingly honest, believable voice.

The book is loosely inspired by the true murder of Grace Brown, and by Dreiser's "An American Tragedy," which I haven't read yet.

A perfect, highly recommended book. Just gorgeous.