Thursday, 3 November 2011

A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. Desperate for money, she takes a job at the Glenmore, where hotel guest Grace Brown asks her to burn a bundle of secret letters. But when Grace's drowned body is fished from the lake, Mattie discovers the letters reveal the grim truth behind a murder.

If you've read my previous Jennifer Donnelly review on Revolution, you'll know that I am a major fan of hers - and this book was definitely no exception. Even though I preferred Revolution, this book was still of an incredibly high standard. The story is based on a real 20th century murder of a lady called Grace Brown, who wrote letters to her later-murderer, Chester Gilette. In the story, the fictional heroine, Mathilda Gokey, gets given her letters, and at several points during the tale she reads out those letters and finds out not just about Grace's story, but also her own. At first I thought the way that Donelley chopped and changed between the past and the present would be confusing - but she did it in such a brilliant way, with the past's titles all her dictionary's word-of-the-day, and the present having no titles. I also loved how well she developed each of the characters - especially Mattie, Weaver, Minnie and Miss Wilcox. I felt like I was under the skin of each of the characters, and constantly seeing them for the first time. Mattie wasn't your average super-hot and dumb damsel in distress - she was an ordinary girl who had big dreams and wasn't going to let certain people drag her down - I think that's why I loved her so much. That, and the fact that she was obsessed with books, just like me. I really think Donnelly has a knack for creating such imaginative but realistic characters, all of whom you can't help but love. I really enjoyed the story, and am sure I will re-read it again someday.

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