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Tuesday, 12 June 2012

A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly

This one was a holiday read - I took it away with me when I went to Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona. It didn't turn out to be a reading kind of trip though, so it has taken me a bit longer to finish than I would have liked!

I felt that there was almost a bit too much going on in this book and that I didn't really understand the author's focus. The blurb makes out that this is a bit of a murder mystery, with Mattie acquiring a dead woman's letters while working her summer job in a hotel and trying to fathom out exactly how she met her demise. In reality, this plot line felt entirely superfluous to the rest of the book and for me, could have been left out altogether. It didn't even add much in terms of character development.

The bulk of the novel, then, consisted of a coming-of-age type account of Mattie's isolated life in rural America. Much of it is very well written, and I particularly enjoyed the vivid depiction of the degree of poverty and isolation experienced by Mattie's community. This isn't a place or time I have read much about before and I found the historical detail very interesting. I am sure the author had done some painstaking research and I really appreciated that. What didn't do it for me was the characterisation and relationships described. Firstly, I have to admit I didn't really take to Mattie herself and found her a bit wet. Furthermore, on several occasions the reader encounters friends, neighbours or other supporting characters and is half-heartedly introduced to plotlines that aren't really followed up at the end. The finale all felt a bit convenient and rushed to me (without wanting to leave a spoiler for those who haven't read it - how much money exactly did Mattie make from her summer job?!!).

This has received so many glowing reviews, but I'm afraid it was a little lost on me!


  1. I read this years ago, think I found it similar to yourself. Good review

    Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

    P.s i'm your newest follower

  2. It's quite a while since I read this, but I remember I liked it. Nice to hear another view. Now following.


    1. Yes, it does seem to have overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon and goodreads.com so it seems I am in the minority! Wouldn't it be a boring world if we all liked the same things though :-) thanks for following.

  3. It's a YA novel, Marie, so maybe that's why it didn't work for you as I know you've mentioned previously how you're not keen on the YA genre. I loved it especially because of Mattie's bookishness and all the other literary references. I wasn't so keen on her newest YA novel, Revolution, though!

    1. You're right Treez, although I must say I have been proved wrong by a few YA offerings lately. I think the ones that have impressed me have tended to be more sci-fi affairs though, set in dystopian futures, rather than the historical setting of A Gathering Light.