263: Matchless, A Christmas Story

Matchless, A Christmas Story: An Illumination of Hans Christian Andersen's Classic The Little Match Girl by Gregory Maguire (Canada ) - (US)

Pages: 112 pgs.
Ages: 10+
Finished: Dec. 19, 2009
First Published: Oct. 27, 2009
Genre: fairy tale
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

On an island so far north that it snowed from September to April, a boy named Frederick kept himself warm by keeping a secret.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading: I have several of the author's books but haven't read any as of yet plus The Little Match Girl is one of my favourite fairy tales.

Summary: The story of a young boy who lives with his widowed mother. They may be poor, but they have just enough to get by and that is enough for them. Their lives very briefly cross paths with a little match girl who dies in the night cold one evening. Then due to that crossed path they are brought together with her distraught family.

Comments: A bittersweet, little story that is really much more than a retelling of The Little Match Girl. Macguire uses Andersen's tale as a starting point to expand upon and from which to create his own tale. Chapter 2 of the book does retell Andersen's tale pretty much keeping to the original though he does make it clear that the little girl is hallucinating and it is her dead mother she sees at the end instead of her grandmother.

Set in the past, in a time of horse and buggies, there is a sentimental ambiance that floats throughout the story. One feels that things are not going to go particularly well and after the death of the little girl any small act of joy becomes poignant. Macguire shows how the small things in life can (and maybe should) mean so much. As in the original tale there is that heavy feeling in the heart but there are bright moments and humour added by Frederick's mom. The fairy tale aspect comes into play when Frederick and his mom meet up with the little match girl's widowed father and two other young daughters and there is a special magical ending on Christmas Eve. At the very ending I think the book went one page too long, for I had just finished reading the end and felt happy with a sweet ending when I turned the page and one more sentence was written that I just didn't get. Perhaps it's just me, but I couldn't make sense of it, I turned back and re-read the second last page and for me that is where the story ends. A charming little story. Not for young children but more for adults and older children who don't mind a bittersweet story.


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