Winning Year: 2003
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Title: A Gathering Light

Original Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Current Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780747563044
In Print

This is a moving and unforgettable story of life in the Adirondack Mountains, in upstate New York at the turn of the 20th Century. The central character, Mattie, struggles to choose between family duty and her burning desire for education and a better life. Her story is cleverly interwoven with a murder mystery which unfolds after the mysterious death of a woman guest at the hotel where Mattie works. This captivating novel is beautifully structured and perfectly captures the mood of time and place with many varied and vivid characters.

Reader Development Pack (PDF)



Jennifer Donnelly lives in Brooklyn with her husband, baby daughter and two greyhounds. She grew up in New York State, in Lewis and Westchester counties. As a child, she loved to write and often inflicted really dreadful poems and stories on her family and friends. She loved to read, too, and the high point of her grade-school week was a Saturday trip to the library. It still is.

Jennifer lived in England as a college student and returned after she graduated. There, she developed a lifelong love of London and its people. She credits London, the East End in particular, as the inspiration behind her desire to become a writer. Before becoming a novelist, Jennifer worked as an antiques dealer, reporter and copywriter.

She says her influences to become a writer were "Books! Those that sucked me in and made me forget I even existed because they were so thrilling and moving and all-consuming. As a kid, I liked book life better than real life, and often preferred books to people. That hasn't changed so much."

Asked what inspired her to write A Gathering Light, she said "Grace Brown, a young woman who was murdered by the father of her unborn child on Big Moose Lake, in the Adironack Mountains, in the summer of 1906. Grace left behind a bundle of letters written to her murderer, Chester Gillette. In them she pleaded with him to come and take her from her parents' home before her pregnancy revealed itself. She also talked about herself and her home and family in these letters. They are heartbreaking. Grace's story - both the one told about her, and the one she told herself in her own letters - is really what inspired A Gathering Light. I wanted to find a way to change the past, to give her death meaning, so the character of Mattie Gokey was born."


Athena Atalanta


Beautiful and moving book, all the parts of the intriguing story woven together cleverly. I could relate to the character Mattie and every page held me on the edge of my seat. Amazing.

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