On My Bookshelf: The Light of the World by Ellen Simpson

May 16, 2016

The LIght of the World by Ellen Simpson is a mix of The DaVinci Code meets The Golden Compass with a struggle between good and evil, the protector of "the light of the world" versus its seekers, possible conspiracy, and secrets that can't be revealed. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: At the back of her grandmother’s closet lies a mystery. After her grandmother’s death, Eva finds a series of diaries detailing the life of a girl caught up in the magic of the Roaring Twenties. She cannot reconcile the young woman in these diaries with the miserable old woman she loved so fiercely. What happened to change her grandmother so drastically? Eva is desperate to know more about this period in her grandmother’s life. What is the light of the world, and who is the mysterious girl that her grandmother fell in love with? Eva starts to investigate the puzzle her grandmother left behind. With the help of a local historian and his enigmatic assistant Olivia, they find a forgotten labyrinth under the city streets. But they are not the only ones down there. Someone else is searching for the light of the world.

Why I liked it: The Light of The World starts off with a flash into the past. The scene is fast paced and leaves you with unanswered questions that make you want to keep reading. When the novel moves back into present day action, it drags at first.

The protagonist, Eva is twenty two, a college drop out, struggling with depression and the recent death of her grandmother. Too much time is spent detailing her grandmother's funeral, what she was like, how other people didn't really understand her, how Eva's mother doesn't understand her, etc. Things finally pick back up again when Eva discovers some of her grandmother's diaries as she and her parents begin cleaning out her grandmother's New York City apartment. Eva's grandmother, Mary. is sixteen and living in the city during the 1920s so that she can work and help support her family. She lives in a women's boarding house full of interesting characters, many of which I wish had been more developed, and has a growing relationship with Wren, another young woman who enjoys reading as much as Mary does. I recently read The Hired Girl, which was set ten years earlier in Baltimore, but was filled with the historical details that I found lacking in The Light of The World.

The LIght of the World by Ellen Simpson is a mix of The DaVinci Code meets The Golden Compass with a struggle between good and evil, the protector of "the light of the world" versus its seekers, possible conspiracy, and secrets that can't be revealed. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
Eva reaches out to a local book store owner, Theo, to try to find out more about her grandmother's past and a phrase she used repeatedly: "the light of the world." At the bookstore, Eva also meets Al, Theo's charming son, and Olivia, a young woman looking for a topic for her graduate school research and to whom Eva finds herself attracted. The novel then becomes a mix of The DaVinci Code meets The Golden Compass with a struggle between good and evil, the protector of "the light of the world" versus its seekers, possible conspiracy, and secrets that can't be revealed. The action present in the opening scene of the novel finally returns.

I found myself unsatisfied with the ending of the novel. It was too much of a coincidence that the only person Eva contacts about her grandmother's diaries happens to be an expert on "the light of the world" and its protector happens to be working right under his nose. The author creates rules about "the light of the world," but later breaks them to create a tidy ending.

Classroom application: For students that enjoy suspense and intrigue, this novel would be a good recommendation. Because of its treatment of LGBT themes, the book could also help diversify your classroom library.

It might be interesting to use this novel in comparison with another novel that mixes fantasy and the real world (i.e. the Percy Jackson or Harry Potter series). Students could identify the rules that each author creates for their fantasy world and determine whether the author follows these rules to ensure that events in the novels are believable despite their fantastical elements.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of The Light of the World for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

For more reading suggestions for students and teachers:



Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

You Might Also Like

0 comments