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Monday, January 28, 2013
1:36 pm est
The weather has been so dank and cold these last few weeks, that I've been spending
most of my afternoons bundled up in front of a warm fire. Of course, I am accompanied by a stack of books and my faithful
companions, Sebastian and FrankieB, who have discovered that it is warmer curled upon the hearth than upon the couch. I actually
have not ventured out of the house all year, except for short, daily walks with my hound to get the mail. However, last Thursday,
I had a few personal errands to do, including grocery shopping and a quick trip to the Library to augment my stash of "must
One of my literary finds was a small, green-covered hardback by Gregory Macguire, the gifted author
of The Wicked Years: Wicked, Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz. I had thought I'd read everything he has, so far, written, including The Next Queen of Heaven: A Novel1, a wonderfully "wicked" tongue-in-cheek farce set in upstate New York just before the Millenium. When
I read this two weeks ago, I discovered from the front matter "books by author" list that there was a Macguire I
had missed. YES!
Written to be read on National Public Radio (NPR) during the 2008 Christmas Season, Matchless: An Illumination of Hans Christian Andersen's Classic
"The Little Match Girl"2 , is a perfect
winter's tale, preferably read on a dank, sleety winter's day snuggled in front of the fire. Written and delightfully illustrated
by the author, this short, four-part story is a re-write of Andersen's poignantly sad tale about a poor match girl. So poor,
that she lights her last few matches in a futile attempt to keep warm on a cold, snowy winter's night.
this is not so much a re-write as a write-around—for Maguire has incorporated the classic story, basically intact, in
Part Two of Matchless; the only change being the switch of the little girl's grandmother
for her mother. In his own inimitable style, Maguire adds an over-plot in the surrounding parts of Frederik, who just as poor
as the match girl yearns for a better life for himself and his own mother. How the two children and their families intertwine
is pure Macguire, whose talented imagination and lyrical, almost poetic prose captivates the mind, touches the heart, and
rejuvenates the soul.
I don't want to say much more, for much more would greatly lessen the impact of this small,
but mighty—shall I say?—parable. For that is what this book is: a deceptively simple, illuminating narrative parable
about the complexities of life as we know it, what may lie beyond, and the bonds that bridge the gap. In a few words and a
modicum of insightful well-turned phrases, Maguire has once again cut deep to expose the spiritually uplifting side of human
nature that often arises from the smoldering ashes of spent matches.
For those of us suffering from the winter
doldrums, this book will uplift our spirits. For those of us longing for one more day of Holiday Joy, Matchless will put us right back into the Spirit of Christmas. Maguire's writing is a unparallel gift brought to life and light in
this sweet, little anecdotal present. It is, in fact, practically matchless.
1 © 2009 by
Gregory Maguire. Hardback, First Edition published by William Morrow, and imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY.
2 © 2009 by Gregory Maguire. 347 pages. Paperback. First Edition published in 2010 by William Morrow, and
imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY.
J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is
an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations,
volumes of poetry, stories
for children (of all ages) and
a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of
Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World
Rainbow in the Sky
of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A
Collection of More Spiritual Poems
We Three Kings
Beauty and the Beast
Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding
Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She
is currently working on her sixth novel.