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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Book Review - Matchless: A Christmas Story by Gregory Maguire

AUTHOR: Gregory Maguire
PUBLISHER: William Morrow & Company 
PUBLICATION DATE: October 27, 2009
FORMAT: Hardcover, 112 pages
GENRE: Fantasy, Holiday/Christmas
ISBN: 9780061913013
When the story was first translated from Danish and published in England in the mid-nineteenth century, the Little Match Girl's dying visions of lights and a grandmother in heaven were often interpreted as metaphors of religious salvation. In "Matchless", Maguire adds a different dimension to the story, intertwining the match girl's tale with that of a young boy, Frederik, whose own yearnings are the catalyst for a better future for himself and his family. Maguire uses his storytelling magic to rekindle Andersen's original intentions, and to suggest transcendence, the permanence of spirit, and the continuity that links the living and the dead.


I read this book aloud to my children. This is an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Match Girl, which I think is the saddest fairy tale ever!

In this version, the Little Match Girl still freezes to death but there is also a parallel story about a little boy named Frederik, whose mother is the Queen’s seamstress. While The Little Match Girl is out trying to sell her wares, she loses one of her slippers which is found by Frederik who takes it home to use as a boat for the little town that he has made from empty spools of thread. Frederik finds a key in the slipper with an address tag attached to it, and his mother helps him to find the address from the key. When they find the home, the widowed father is grieving over the dead little girl. His wife recently died from consumption, and he is left with infant babies to care for. Dame Pedersen and Frederik are overwhelmed by the scene and each take a screaming baby to comfort and soothe.

Dame Pedersen helps The Little Match Girl’s father get a job working for the Queen in the new year, and the two wind up getting married about six months later.

Memorable quote:

"The family was still hard-pressed for money, and dreamed of savory treats to eat, but they had the warmth of one another, and enough on which to live, and in most parts of the world that is called plenty."

At the one year anniversary of The Little Match Girl’s death, Dame Pedersen is summoned to come to the aid of the Queen and dashes out the door so quickly that she forgets to take her supper with her. Frederik offers to take the food to the Queen’s palace and assures his step-father that he knows the way. 

On the way home, Frederik discovers that the causeway is flooded over due to the unseasonably warm weather which has thawed the ice and created a fog. One wrong step could spell disaster. He prays to get home safely to his sisters. A flickering light, like a flame from a match, winks up ahead. Just as he reaches the light, it is snuffed out but another appears further on. Frederik follows in the path of the little flames, which light his way home. In his heart, he knows that it is The Little Match Girl who has helped him return home safely.

I loved the addition of this story to the traditional tale of The Little Match Girl. Her death is so tragic and sad, and I loved that the author reminds us that the little girl indeed lives on!

5 stars! It was superb! I loved it, and I will likely re-read it again in the future! You should definitely read it! 
This book qualifies as: 


  1. I read this a couple of years ago and thought it was great. I've always loved the story of The Little Match Girl, even though it's incredibly sad. Great review, Darlene.

    I just posted sign-ups for A Winter's Respite read-a-thon in January at Seasons of Reading. Just a heads up. =O)

    1. Thanks, Michelle!

      And thanks for the heads-up on the Read-a-Thon!


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