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A Northern Light A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
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A Northern Light Quotes (showing 1-30 of 45)
“Right now I want a word that describes the feeling that you get--a cold sick feeling, deep down inside--when you know something is happening that will change you, and you don't want it to, but you can't stop it. And you know, for the first time, for the very first time, that there will now be a before and an after, a was and a will be. And that you will never again quite be the same person you were.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“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.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“Voice is not just the sound that comes from your throat, but the feelings that come from your words.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“Cripes Miss Wilcox, they're not guns,' I said.
No, they're not Mattie, they're books. And a hundred times more dangerous.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“There were lives in those books, and deaths. Families and friends and lovers and enemies. Joy and despair, jealousy, envy, madness, and rage. All there. I reached out and touched the cover of one called The Earth. I could almost hear the characters inside, murmuring and jostling, impatient for me to open the cover and let them out.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“What I saw next stopped me dead in my tracks. Books. Not just one or two dozen, but hundreds of them. In crates. In piles on the floor. In bookcases that stretched from floor to ceiling and lined the entire room. I turned around and around in a slow circle, feeling as if I'd just stumbled into Ali Baba's cave. I was breathless, close to tears, and positively dizzy with greed.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“Sometimes, when you catch someone unaware at just the right time and in just the right light, you can catch sight of what they will be.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“I listened as the words became sentences and the sentences became pages and the pages became feelings and voices and places and people.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“Words fail me sometimes. I have read most every word in the Webster’s International Dictionary of the English Language, but I still have trouble making them come when I want them to. Right now I want a word that describes the feeling you get – a cold sick feeling deep down inside – when you know something is happening that will change you, and you don’t want it to, but you can’t stop it. And you know you will never be the same again.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“For the first time, I saw what was in his heart, and I wondered if he might ever want to look deep enough to see mine.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“And I knew in my bones that Emily Dickinson wouldn't have written even one poem if she'd had two howling babies, a husband bent on jamming another one into her, a house to run, a garden to tend, three cows to milk, twenty chickens to feed, and four hired hands to cook for. I knew then why they didn't marry. Emily and Jane and Louisa. I knew and it scared me. I also knew what being lonely was and I didn't want to be lonely my whole life. I didn't want to give up on my words. I didn't want to choose one over the other. Mark Twain didn't have to. Charles Dickens didn't.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“It's another sin. Worse than all the other ones, which are immediate, violent and hot...It's the eighth deadly sin. The one God left out, Hope.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“Well, it seems to me that there are books that tell stories, and then there are books that tell truths... The first kind, they show you life like you want it to be. With villains getting what they deserve and the hero seeing what a fool he's been and marrying the heroine and happy endings and all that... But the second kind, they show you life more like it is... The first kind makes you cheerful and contented, but the second kind shakes you up.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“A new word. Bright with possibilities. A flawless pearl to turn over and over in my hand, then put away for safekeeping.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“You should spend more time reading the Good Book and less reading all those novels. What are you going to tell the Lord on Judgement Day when He asks you why you didn't read your bible? Hmm?"

I will tell Him that His press agents could have done with a writing lesson or two, I said. To myself.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“But words are more powerful than anything.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“As I nodded and smiled and umm-hmm'd and oh, my'd my way down the drive, I wondered if boys had any sort of magazine that told them how to attract women and, if so, did it ever tell them to put the girls' interests first?”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“Make them care, Mattie,' she said softly. 'And don't you ever be sorry.'
-Emily Wilcox”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“You can't argue with the dead, no matter what you say, they always have the last word.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
tags: death
“They leave things behind sometimes, the guests. A bottle of scent. A crumpled handkerchief. A pearl button that fell off a dress and rolled under a bed. And sometimes they leave other sorts of things. Things you can't see. A sigh trapped in a corner. Memories tangled in the curtains. A sob fluttering against the windowpane like a bird that flew in and can't get back out. I can feel these things. They dart and crouch and whisper.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“My father had put these things on the table.

I looked at him standing by the sink. He was washing his hands, splashing water on his face. My mamma left us. My brother, too. And now my feckless, reckless uncle had as well. My pa stayed, though. My pa always stayed.

I looked at him. And saw the sweat stains on his shirt. And his big, scarred hands. And his dirty, weary face. I remembered how, lying in my bed a few nights before, I had looked forward to showing him my uncle's money. To telling him I was leaving.

And I was so ashamed.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“Never take what's offered, always ask for more.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“I don't know what I was hoping for. Some small praise, I guess. A bit of encouragement. I didn't get it. Miss Parrish took me aside one day after school let out. She said she'd read my stories and found them morbid and dispiriting. She said literature was meant to uplift the heart and that a young woman such as myself ought to turn her mind to topics more cheerful and inspiring than lonely hermits and dead children.

"Look around yourself, Mathilda," she said. "At the magnificence of nature. It should inspire joy and awe. Reverence. Respect. Beautiful thoughts and fine words."

I had looked around. I'd seen all the things she'd spoken of and more besides. I'd seen a bear cub lift it's face to the drenching spring rains. And the sliver moon of winter, so high and blinding. I'd seen the crimson glory of a stand of sugar maples in autumn and the unspeakable stillness of a mountain lake at dawn. I'd seen them and loved them. But I'd also seen the dark of things. The starved carcasses of winter deer. The driving fury of a blizzard wind. And the gloom that broods under the pines always. Even on the brightest days.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“Well it seems to me that there are books that tell stories, and then there are books that tell truths...," I began.
"Go on," she said
"The first kind, they show you life like you want it to be. With villains getting what they deserve and the hero seeing what a fool he's been and marrying the heroine and happy ending and all that. Like Sense and Sensibility or Persuasion. But the second kind, they show you life more like it is. Like in Huckleberry Finn where Huck's pa is a no-good drunk and Jim suffers so. The first kind makes you cheerful and contented, but the second kind shakes you up."
"People like happy ending, Mattie. They don't want to be shaken up."
"I guess not, ma'am. It's just that there are no Captain Wentworths, are there? But there are plenty of Pap Finns. And things go well for Anne Elliot in the end, but they don't go well for most people." My voice trembled as I spoke, as it did whenever I was angry. "I feel let down sometimes. The people in the books-the heroes- they're always so...heroic. And I try to be, but..."
"...you're not," Lou said, licking deviled ham off her fingers.
"...no, I'm not. People in books are good and noble and unselfish, and people aren't that way... and I feel, well... hornswoggled sometimes. By Jane Austen and Charles Dickens and Louisa May Alcott. Why do writers make things sugary when life isn't that way?" I asked too loudly. "Why don't they tell the truth? Why don't they tell how a pigpen looks after the sow's eaten her children? Or how it is for a girl when her baby won't come out? Or that cancer has a smell to it? All those books, Miss Wilcox," I said, pointing at a pile of them," and I bet not one of them will tell you what cancer smells like. I can, though. It stinks. Like meat gone bad and dirty clothes and bog water all mixed together. Why doesn't anyone tell you that?"
No one spoke for a few seconds. I could hear the clock ticking and the sound of my own breathing. Then Lou quietly said, "Cripes, Mattie. You oughtn't to talk like that."
I realized then that Miss Wilcox had stopped smiling. Her eyes were fixed om me, and I was certain she'd decided I was morbid and dispiriting like Miss Parrish had said and that I should leave then and there.
"I'm sorry, Miss Wilcox," I said, looking at the floor. "I don't mean to be coarse. I just... I don't know why I should care what happens to people in a drawing room in London or Paris or anywhere else when no one in those places cares what happens to people in Eagle Bay."
Miss Wilcox's eyes were still fixed on me, only now they were shiny. Like they were the day I got my letter from Barnard. "Make them care, Mattie," she said softly. "And don't you ever be sorry.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“Writers are damned liars. Every single one of them.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“I think your vision gets better as you get older.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“He pressed himself into me and kissed my neck, and it was as if everything strong and solid inside me, heart and bones and muscle and gut, softened and melted from the heat of him.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“Things are NEVER what they seem, Pa, I thought. I used to think they were, but I was wrong or stupid or blind or something. Old folks are forever complaining about their failing eyesight, but I think your vision gets better as you get older. Mine surely was.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“I could almost hear the characters inside, murmuring and jostling, impatient for me to open the cover and let them out.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
“I look around myself wildly, my heart bursting with grief and fear and joy. I am leaving, but I will take this place and its stories with me wherever I go.”
Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light

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