I've recently finished this book and was totally absorbed by it. Two stories run on parallel grounds.
Set in the early 1900's, Mattie is a young lady very torn between her dreams of becoming a writer and family related responsibilities. To add to her dilemmas, she falls in love, feeling more and more confused.
Grace is another young lady whose body is found lifeless in the lake by the Glenmore Hotel, where Mattie works.
Both girls' tales entwine and merge in a clever and entertaining combination.
The prose is pictorial and detailed, conveying the surroundings, the characters and their feelings so nicely.
There's a little gem embedded in the beginning of each chapter, which is not numbered but starts off with the introduction of a new word, as part of a game that Mattie and her friend Weaver play every day to strengthen their vocabulary. Each word is irrelevant to the core of the story but there's always the appropriate space for it, a clever touch. I found myself playing along and testing my own vocabulary!
There are many themes in this book: poverty, racism, love, compassion, hope are but a few. The narrative is creative and clever, with very sad and very funny situations too. The sense of humour conveyed by Mattie is remarkable.
When I started it, I had avoided reading the summary on the back cover (a bit revealing I later realised), but I was glad I did, so that the last part of the book took me completely by surprise.
Definitely a timeless novel, I would suggest it for young readers too (15+).
P.S. A little note: "A Gathering Light" and "A Northern Light" are exactly the same book, the second one being the American original title. I was about to buy it when I realised they were the same. Just so you know.