Tuesday, July 13, 2010

She Is Too Fond of Books: My Latest Reads

I just finished an excellent book yesterday and wanted to pass along the recommendation.  A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly, is technically a YA novel, but I'm not one to be bothered by such gross distinctions.  Some books transcend their ascribed boundaries, as this is a shining example of such.

Set in the Adirondacks in 1906, the narrative dances around a true incident, the murder of a young woman, named Grace Brown, at a North Woods hotel. The protagonist, Mattie Gokey, who works at the hotel, has a brief encounter with the young woman before she disappears.  Burdened with her own losses and responsibilities, Mattie puts the woman's request from her mind until circumstances force her to face the meaning of promises made and the meaning and purpose of her own life.

This simply told tale is stunningly evocative, and the prose, while not minimalist in any way, sparkles quietly with life.  Moreover, Donnelly's understanding of the area's vernacular and its people is pitch-perfect without being condescending or unnecessarily vulgar, as can sometimes be the case.  I also enjoyed the plot's structure, which moves back and forth in time, raising questions about plot points and then neatly answering them as the story unwinds.  It takes a careful author to weave together numerous threads into a cohesive and smooth fabric, and Donnelly's skill is consummate.  Absolutely marvelous.

I've also recently finished The Caxley Chronicles, a collection of two novels by Miss Read, one of my favorites, as you well know.  These were as wonderful as I'd expected; in fact, I found them to be more complex than some of her other titles, with more attention paid to relationships and how they develop over the years.  Highly recommended.

Last week, I finished Loitering with Intent, a Muriel Spark novel.  This was entertaining, especially since Spark's peppery wit is very much in evidence.  But I have to say I did not enjoy it as much as I did A Far Cry from Kensington.  I wouldn't recommend it as a first exposure to Spark.  For her fans, though, it's worth a read.  So: recommended with a caveat.


  1. While I love your astute comments about the books you recommend, I am even more delighted by your quotes, especially Anne Lamott's "Joy is the best makeup. Joy, and good lighting."

    I am delighted to have found your blog.

    Author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers

  2. Hi, Lynn! I'm glad you found my blog, too. Since you liked Anne Lamott's quote so much, I'll add that the next line says, "And a little lipstick doesn't hurt, either." I love that.



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