Thursday, December 24, 2009

Matchless by Gregory Maguire

Buy It Now!

You learn something new every day. Something I didn't know until recently is that NPR (National Public Radio) asks a different author each year to write a Christmas story that is then read out over the airwaves. In 2008 that author was Gregory Maguire. He chose to write "Matchless," which is (as it says on the front of the book) "An Illumination of Hans Christian Andersen's' Classic, 'The Little Match Girl.'"

While I'm familiar with many of Hans Christian Andersen's works, the story of "The Little Match Girl" is not one of the ones that I know. Maguire's story is written in 4 small sections, and according to the author's note at the back off the book, section 2 is written very close to the original story, with only a few small modifications to fit the rest of the story he had written. The one he specifically points out is that the original story took place at New Years time and he moved the story to Christmas.

Maguire's story actually does not focus on the Matchstick Girl, although she plays an important roll. Instead we get to know a boy named Frederik who lives alone with his mother, who is a seamstress for the Queen. Despite the fact the Queen frequently ripped the hems of her dresses, Fredrik and his Mom were painfully poor, and they often found themselves short on food and warmth. Fredrik would go out and hunt for dead fish that had washed up on the shore, and they would make their meals from this poor offering. When there were no fish to be seen he would often look for little bits of pretty objects that he could use to create a little make believe town in his attic bedroom.

Through a twist of fate the lives of the Matchstick girl and Fredrik become intertwined. How that happens, and what the ending is, you'll have to read for yourself!

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