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!