K.'s Reviews > The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches

The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches by Gaétan Soucy
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There are books, however short or long, that take forever to get through; books that make you twist and dig and plunder for meaning behind painfully skillful, cruelly dense language. Gaetan Soucy's The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches is that.

This isn't a bizarre story, its just bizarrely written. And bizarre is good. Its about two siblings, ages estimated around late teens, who one morning discover their father dead by hanging. One of them decides to venture out to town to purchase a coffin into which they will bury their father in a ditch they will later dig in an as of yet undetermined spot in their vast estate. Except neither sibling has ever been to town, or spoken to "neighbors", or even set foot outside of their grounds. They've lived their whole lives under the suffocating tutelage of their father, their only source of knowledge on life, death, religion, this earth. They speak a language they've adopted from their "dictionaries" of medieval fairy tales and philosophy. Their perspective of the world is primitive and skewed. They are feral and selectively informed.

Some books allow the reader to become part of the story but Soucy makes you flit between spectator and puzzle solver. The protagonist's view of the world is so minimal and so shifted, that it makes it impossible to be one with the character. You can't participate because you're still figuring out what's being said. The word-plays are endless. Its like looking through a foggy window, through which a shadowy outline is barely visible and each re-read of a phrase is the wipe of a hand on the misty glass, each an attempt to make out the image. And then you do and oh, my.

The protagonist is so unaware that I couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry. And that sentiment lasts throughout the entire novel. The language that delivers the story is dense but the voice is...light? Airy? The voice lacks understanding, you see, understanding of what's happening, of the gravity of the situation (because I'm sure you've since figured out that there's some dark, disturbing secret that lies deep within the ambiguity of this book). Soucy, unbeknownst to us, is relating a very serious story about child abuse, extreme (and perhaps, distorted) religious devotion, guilt, gender and human nature/human psyche in its untamed and rawest form (and trust me when I say et cetera) but conceals it behind a humorous and naive voice. He unveils a somber truth in one paragraph, then subverts the weight of this revelation with such unacquainted admissions from the protagonist that you're continually caught between gasps of shock and bursts of laughter. Only until the end, when all is revealed and that foggy glass is at last clear, that we see the picture for what it is and its powerful enough to waken those sleeping eyes and raise the hair on your neck.

This is a great book. It takes time getting used to but in due time you'll be flowing right along the rhythm that is all too distinct and rewarding. I wouldn't say its refreshing because I save those for books that are actually refreshing. This little novel is macabre and unnerving. If this review seems useless, its because saying any more would be doing the work for you...and what would be the fun in that?

Also, this must have been a bitch to translate.
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Reading Progress

07/23/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Wendy Darling This book sounds amazing, K.! I've never heard of this author before, but I'm definitely checking this out. Great review.

message 2: by K. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K. Now I'm scared I might've sold it too well! Its a really good book - a lot of work, for me anyway - but I'm glad I read it. I hope you enjoy it too, Wendy and thanks :D

message 3: by Tatiana (new)

Tatiana I am intrigued...

Maria Amazing review, jackpot!

Harry Fantastic review. I read, and reread, this book years ago. The story is layers upon layers of meaning.

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