A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

“The reading of Dawn is a strain upon many parts, but the worst wear and tear fall on the forearms. After holding the massive volume for the half-day necessary to its perusal (well, look at that, would you? “massive volume” and “perusal,” one right after the other! You see how contagious Mr. D’s manner is?), my arms ached with a slow, mean persistence beyond the services of aspirin or of liniment. I must file this distress, I suppose under the head of ‘Occupational Diseases….” Dorothy Parker’s Review of Theodore Dreiser’s Dawn

My favorite Theodore Dreiser novel (which as the Parker quote would indicate that isn’t saying much) is An American Tragedy which is based on the true story of Grace Brown who was found dead in Big Moose Lake in the Adirondack Mountains in 1906. The boat she had been in with her companion, who rented the boat under the name of Carl Graham, had capsized. It was thought that Graham had also drowned until they searched the rooms of the hotel they were staying at and found letters which indicated that Grace was pregnant with Graham’s (real name Chester Gillette)child, neither of which Graham wanted. Thus, he had plotted to kill her with her unborn child so he could scamper away to continue sewing his wild oats. Only, because of the letters, he was caught and convicted. Reaping a whirlwind indeed.

This plot is set as the backdrop in Donnelly’s “A Northern Light” by having Grace Brown give the letters to Mattie (the main character) to burn. Several of Brown’s letters are used throughout the novel and tie in with Mattie’s story of being the eldest girl in a large struggling family who has just lost their mother. This is one of those books where I just hate to talk about the plot or anything else in fear that I will make it seem any less than it is. It really is a fantastically told story and one I wish I had read before Christmas so I could have hand sold it more.

Plus, the girl on the cover makes me weak in the knees.

One Response to “A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly”

  1. rebecca Says:

    i loved this book

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