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The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches [Paperback]

Gaétan Soucy , Sheila Fischman
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Paperback, 20 May 2002 --  

Book Description

20 May 2002

A truly remarkable tour de force, both as a novel and as a translation by Sheila Fischman

The story is told by a child who has been brought up in a cabin by a deranged father in the Canadian wilds. The child has simply never met anyone from outside the little family, and speaks an extraordinary language based on the father’s limited conversation and a motley selection of books in the cabin.

The story opens on the day the two siblings discover that their father has hanged himself. Now they will be forced into contact with the villagers beyond their little universe. They will discover the startling truth about the world outside – and the world outside will discover the even more startling truth about them and their history.

Hypnotic, powerful, playful, utterly suspenseful, this is an amazing novel that has been a major bestseller in Canada.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Flamingo (20 May 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007131453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007131457
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.8 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,342,458 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


‘A magnificent novel, writing that dazzles.’ Elle

‘Soucy is a master of suspense: he gives life to enigmas in order to better illuminate the story by plunging his reader into an even deeper, denser, richer mystery. While the tale becomes more explicit as it progresses, it also becomes more bewitching, more mysteriously pulsating.’ Le Monde

From the Back Cover

A finalist for France's prestigious Prix Renaudot, and translated into more than ten languages, 'The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond Of Matches' is the strikingly original tale of two siblings growing up isolated from the outside world.

Alone with their authoritative father on a vast estate where time has stopped, the pair speak a language and inhabit a surreal universe of their own making. When their father dies they come into contact with the outside world for the first time, and the appalling truth of their existence is revealed.

A richly imaginative story in which nothing is a tour de force of suspense, linguistic invention and playfulness.

"Soucy is a master of suspense: he gives life to enigmas in order to be better illuminate the story by plunging his reader into an even deeper, denser, richer mystery. While the tale becomes more explicit as it progresses, it also becomes more bewitching, more mysteriously pulsating."
Le Monde

"A mix of horror and beauty, cruelty and enchantment… A strong brew of earthly detail, pure poetry and suggestions of unspeakable horror."
Toronto Star

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-crafted 16 Jan 2005
The reality Soucy has created seems to progress on a swift timeline from fascinating, and strangely compelling, to downright disturbing in the last third of the book. In this, the author has definitely mastered suspense. However, because of the swift progression the novel can appear, at times, to move too fast, but that's a minor criticism.
I don't think it's necessarily fair to say that the children 'discover the truth' of the outside world when they're forced to come into contact with it, and this is perhaps the key adventure to the novel - truths and immutable facts that we as readers know have to be suspended. The children are completely unable to reconcile what they encounter to any form of 'truth' that we know, and the reader is forced into viewing the world through their eyes, and sharing their experiences by way of a first person narrative.
The writing itself is masterful and is often lyrical, even when describing horrors. There are no excess words, or fillers, or unnecessary descriptions. So, while not an easy read, it is a pleasure to read partly because of the writer's skill.
I'd recommend this to anyone who wants to take a look at the world through very different eyes, and who can stomach the unpleasant moments.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but no classic 8 July 2002
This is more of an extended short story than a novel, I would say - but that is no criticism. You are drawn slowly into an intricate and confusing world that is in turns disturbing, fascinating, haunting and occasionally deeply beautiful. But be warned, this is no story for the easily offended or upset. A growing sense of horror is finally and explicitly confirmed as the story draws to a close. Perhaps the best comparison that I can make would be with Ian McEwan's "The Cement Garden" - but whereas that book could not grasp my attention enough to read it all, this book did at least that.
Furthermore, anyone who has a reasonable knowledge of 20th Century philosophy - in particular of Wittgenstein - will find that there are some thought provoking titbits thrown in along the way.
So with all this, why only the three stars? Well, although there are many outstanding moments - and whilst the dark underlying secret of the story is well kept and cunningly revealed, exceeding even your worst suspicions, it is an effort to get through this book. The apparent constant effort of the author to shock you with details of the children's barbaric existence becomes a little tiresome. And it is entirely unnecessary, because the book is far better where it hints and suggests, than where it describes with gleefully explicit detail.
Overall, definitely worth a read. Whether it is worth buying I am not so sure. The trouble is that your local library is not likely to have it . . . mine did not.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Strange book, good read 9 Sep 2003
An odd story, concise and imaginative. 4 stars instead of 5 only because it reminded me a little too much of Iain Banks' "The Wasp Factory" - but then, that's not such a bad thing. A slim book, but worth buying I think.
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