Sunday, August 15, 2021

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly


One of my most recent reading projects is called the Literary Sad Girl Canon where I reread books I enjoyed when I was a teen/adolescent and write about my thoughts on them now, as an adult. This addition is particularly exciting because I was joined by my Goodreads friend, Nut Meg, so keep an eye out for her review, soon!

A NORTHERN LIGHT is a book packed with memories for me because when I read it for the first time, I was not actually living in the United States. Living in the UK, with my bedroom window overlooking a small wood, I remember feeling transported to the New York wilderness and the brutal elements. It gave this book a feeling of immediacy, and I liked and related to the heroine, who aspired to greater things that she felt she didn't deserve. I relate, girl. I relate.

Reading this book a second time around, I had a lot of mixed feelings. For some reason, I was expecting more of a mystery? I remembered the murder being much more focal to the plot than it actually was. Which is a shame because the murder in this book is based off of a real life murder and kind of gives off Corpse Bride vibes. But the bulk of the book is mostly about Mattie, the heroine, and her brutal work on the farm while she struggles to find a way to become a university student.  Her best friend, Weaver, is Black, and he also wants a higher education, but people keep foiling his plans too because it's the early twentieth century and people are racist fucks. Booooo, racist fucks! Boooo!

I liked the themes of empowerment over adversity and the grueling portrayal of life on the farm is a huge middle finger to anyone who romanticizes that sort of life (spoiler: IT WAS HARD WORK) but I was also hoping for more action. This is really more of a soap opera than it is a mystery and the dual timeline doesn't actually serve to do much, except make the narrative jump around. Mattie's whole shtick with words was kind of twee and I found myself rolling my eyes at it more often than not.

Also, hilariously, in my newly obtained copy, I noticed that someone highlighted all of the references to food. Why would they do this? I have no idea, but it made me realize how many food references there are in this book. That's okay, though, because I like food.

TL;DR review: I liked it but this was more of a Scooby Don't than a Scooby Doo.

3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars

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