Book Review: A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Based on a real murder at the turn of the century, this outstanding 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 reflected in the life of a young 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.
A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly is in the children's section of the Bloomsbury catalogue but it is one of those great books that will appeal to readers of many ages as the author has created a story that many will identify with.
Mattie made a promise to her dying mother that she will look after the rest of the family so she is torn when she has the opportunity to go to college in New York to persue her dream of being a writer. I loved the way that the author uses Mattie to explore the ways in which a writer thinks. Mattie views the world and the people around her in a very particular way. When Grace Brown's body is discovered, Mattie has to know more; she understands that Grace must have a story that should be told.
Jennifer Donnelly does not shy away from the poverty and daily grind that Mattie and her family face. You begin to understand just how difficult Mattie's decision is. On the one hand she must feel that she has the opportunity to escape and realise her dreams but on the other hand she has to face the tremendous guilt were she to leave her family in those circumstances.
Some reviewers have said that this book is a little slow; I can understand what they are saying but in many ways it is important for the book to be like this. It is the slow-paced, mundane life that Mattie wants to leave behind. She has to decide whether this is just the life that she has been dealt; should she just get married and help run the farm or should she go out there and see what else life has to offer?
The death of Grace Brown is an event that really did take place. Jennifer Donnelly weaves it into her story and Mattie learns more and more about Grace from the letters that she left behind. Grace brown's fate brings Mattie's choice into sharp focus; I thought that the author tied these two characters together brilliantly.
A Gathering Light is a fantastic book that I would highly recommend. There are so many different aspects to the story that you cannot help but become engrossed in it, even when I reached the last page, I wanted to know more about Mattie's life.

Many thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me a copy of this book, Jennifer Donnelly has a new book called Revolution out in October so look out for that one!


Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

What a wonderful review! I have this book on my wishlist and I am so glad it is a great novel. I really like your review of it and it makes me want to read this novel even more now. Thanks for sharing!

Dot said...

Irena- Thank you, hope that you enjoy it when you get to read it.

Charlie said...

I wish I'd reviewed this when I read it because reading your review I can't remember much! I do remember enjoying it though, the history was very interesting and I really felt for Mattie at the end.

I didn't know Jennifer had a new book coming out!

Dot said...

Charlie- yip, in October, looks like it's going to be really good!

One More Page said...

I read this one a while ago but really loved it too. So excited to hear about the new book that I went straight to Amazon and ordered it!

Kat said...

I got this book the other week and I'm looking forward to reading it. Great review!

Dot said...

One More Page- the new one looks great doesn't it, look forward to your review!

Kat- Thank you, hope that you enjoy it!

fiction-books said...

This is an author I haven't read before, but the synopsis and your review make it sound quite intriguing.

Definite addition to my TBR mountain!!!

Dot said...

fiction-books- I really enjoyed this one, heard very good things about Revolution too so shall have to get a copy soon!

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