With Matchless I’m at review 52! CANNONBALL! I don’t expect to do this again, I had to sacrifice longer novels for shorter ones to meet the goal and stretch with some graphic novels at the end but I’m satisfied with my reviews and enjoyed the challenge of pushing myself to stay on a reading and writing schedule. Apologies to my work for the countless lunch hours (and sometimes beyond) spent writing these up. On to review 52!
Matchless began its life a spoken word performance that Gregory Maguire performed a few years ago. Afterwards, it was released in a lovely little book with wood cut style illustrations making it seem much older than it is. Maguire takes the Hans Christian Anderson tale of The Little Match Girl, changes it from New Year’s Eve to Christmas Eve, and gives it a bit more depth and holiday feeling. It’s a heartbreaking story but the additions make it more charming and appropriate for the holidays.
Frederik and his mother live meagerly in a northern island where “the snows fall from September to April”. Frederik’s mother works as seamstress for the Queen. She is frequently exhausted so Frederik goes out every day to find their supper by scaring birds from dropping stolen fish from the nearby docks. They are poor but love each other and are getting by.
On Christmas Eve, the Queen summons Frederik’s mother to the castle for a dress emergency leaving Frederik at home. Frederik heads out into the streets to find treasure to add to the model of the town he is building from discarded refuse. He finds a small shoe that would be perfect to use as a boat for his town and happily returns home with it. Unfortunately, the shoe belonged to a young girl selling matches on the street. As night falls and she hasn’t sold any matches, she begins lighting the matches to stave off the cold. Each flash of the match shows her another wondrous vision of warm hearth and abundant food.
The stories of these two children collide in Matchless in surprising, and heartbreaking, ways. It’s a beautifully told story and Maguire’s mastery of language in his descriptions yields some poetic stanzas. Everyone has their favorite Christmas stories to read year after year and Matchless is one of mine. I always find myself drawn to the more traditional stories that place emphasis on family and the joy of simply having enough to eat and being warm. It reminds me to care and reach out to those who need it the most.
The family was still hard pressed for money, and dreamed of savory treats to eat, but they had the warmth of each other, and enough on which to live, and in most parts of the world that is called plenty.
Happy Holidays, fellow Cannonballers! See you for CBR8!