Jennifer Donnelly's A Gathering Light is a historical young adult novel that follows the life of a young girl, Mathilda Gokey, set in 1906. Interestingly it is also interwoven with the true murder case of Grace Brown, who was brutally drowned by her lover leaving behind her heartbreaking story in a series of letters between herself and her eventual murderer, Chester Gillette.
Mattie Gokey is a young girl on the cusp of adulthood who finds herself drowning in the promise she made to her dying mother. Yearning for a life outside of Eagle Bay, she is confronted daily with the all consuming sense of responsibility to her father and younger sisters, after suffering the abandonment of her older brother.
"I know it is a bad thing to break a promise, but I think now that it is a worse thing to let a promise break you."
A Gathering Light is undoubtedly one of the most beautifully written coming of age novels I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Donnelly encapsulates the struggle of being a young woman in the early 1900's who desperately desires to be educated in the literary field, while fighting the pressure to marry and start a family of her own. The novel deals with issues surrounding race, gender inequality, romance and beyond this, A Gathering Light ultimately deals with the struggle of growing up. This book as an absolute must for lovers of young adult fiction and/ or historical fiction – if you want something good to read this book is it.
- Linda, QBD Shellharbour