This was my first book of 2010. I bought it for Jason, who loves “The Little Match Girl,” and read it before I’d read the fairy tale. It’s a retelling and an expansion of “The Little Match Girl,” split into four parts. Part 2 is almost a direct translation of the fairy tale, the other three parts are built around it.
Matchless was an interesting experience, so I’m just going to walk through how I felt as I read. At first, I wasn’t sure. The story seemed choppy and like Maguire was leaving a lot out. It jumped around a lot, and felt far too short. I wasn’t sure I liked the style. When I got to part 2, the retelling of “The Little Match Girl” felt the same way – choppy and thinned out. At the time, I didn’t know it was nearly a direct translation. I only found that out while reading the notes at the end of Matchless, and after reading the fairy tale itself.
Parts 3 and 4, however, came together for me. While they retained the same short, choppy style, the story dove deeper and I began to care about the characters. I got immediate chills and tears came to my eyes at one specific place in Part 4. I hadn’t been expecting the book to end so beautifully, but it did. Just like the fairy tale itself, there was beauty and sadness all mixed together, though probably a bit more happiness than in the original. It’s bittersweet.
Immediately afterwards, I pulled out our copy of Anderson’s Fairy Tales, and read “The Little Match Girl.” I was surprised to see how short, choppy, and thinned out the fairy tale felt. And then, I understood – Maguire was using the same writing style as the original tale. That made Matchless even better for me. I’m not familiar with original fairy tales, so the writing style is new to me. Maybe someone who knows more and who has read more would disagree, but I thought Maguire did an excellent job of recapturing that same feel. I loved this story and will likely read it again. Perhaps at Christmas. Maybe it’ll become a tradition.