The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches – Gaetan Soucy

matchesThe Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches is a novel by Canadian writer Gaetan Soucy. 

The story begins with two siblings living on a large estate alone with their father. When the father dies suddenly, the children know they have to take care of the burial, which means leaving the estate, which they’ve never done, and travelling to the nearby village. 

The siblings are teenagers, which takes a moment for the reader to discover, as their language, behavior, and lack of knowledge of the outside world leads one to think that they’re small children. The older sibling has a skewed view of reality, believing that fictional places, as well as far away nations like Japan, lie just beyond the grove of trees surrounding the estate.  It’s obvious that their father has kept them developmentally and emotionally stunted, but to what purpose?  

 Slowly, the truth comes to light, and the circumstances of the children’s lives on the estate is revealed. The language of the book comes from the mind of the older sibling, which at times is convoluted or confused. I can understand why this might be distracting, but this character’s interpretation of the world only enhances the ominous atmosphere.  

This story is grotesque and twisted, and many of the scenes are disturbing. I wouldn’t recommend this book to everyone, but would suggest this book for those who like challenging language, puzzling characters, and aren’t bothered by unsettling or gruesome descriptions. If you have ever read The Wasp Factory and survived, then you’ll be okay.  

Translated from the French, the book is only about 150 pages, so it’s a quick read, and there is no time wasted and no piece of the plot that isn’t crucial. I recommend you read it in one sitting . . . if you can handle it.  

The Heart’s Invisible Furies – John Boyne

I loved this book. It’s worth every page, every moment of your time. I had a hard time putting it down, and when I had to do other things instead of reading this book I wondered about the characters and what they were up to. It’s around 600 pages, but I read it just a few days because I couldn’t help but read it every chance I had.  THIF-USA

The Heart’s Invisible Furies is the story of Cyril Avery, from the moment of his conception through the final days of his life. Set mostly in Ireland during the ‘50s and ‘60s, Cyril is adopted by the Averys when he’s just three days old. His adoptive parents are distant and eccentric, his father often reminding him that he’s “not a real Avery.”

Cyril befriends Julian, the son of his father’s solicitor, and also falls in love with him at a young age. He grows up internalizing the struggle of his sexuality and the agony of being in love with his best friend. This story follows Cyril through his adolescence in Ireland, his relationships as an adult, and finally into the 1980s during the early years of the AIDS epidemic in New York City. Each character is multifaceted and sympathetic, and as their lives intertwine their faults and triumphs make for an amazing story.

John Boyne has created real magic here.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies is full of snarky banter, hilarity, and tragedy. It’s devastating and uplifting, smart and relevant. The characters are like good friends that I will remember fondly. I want to go back and start reading it all over again. I recommend it highly.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

The Last Ballad – Wiley Cash

balladThe Last Ballad is the true story of Ella May Wiggins, a young mother of 5 children, who worked in the textile mill in 1929 and became the voice of the union struggle for workers’ rights. Ella only earned $9 a week working nights at the mill, unable to stay home to care for her ill children. Her husband ran off, and she lived as a single parent in Stumptown, depending on the help of her poor neighbors to care for her children while she worked grueling hours at the mill.

Cash’s story of Wiggins and her involvement with the formation of the union is a fascinating, often-ignored piece of history. The book uses multiple perspectives, which is a useful technique to show the determination of the grassroots efforts of the labor movement and why unions were the only answer for many people with no other options. This book is important and Ella’s story needs to be told; however, it’s over-researched, and Cash often drifted into tangents of historical information or recitation of timelines that pulled me out of the story. Also, the outcome is revealed early in the book, which deflated the powerful ending.

The Last Ballad is good, but not great. I knew what was coming, since Cash told me from the beginning, so most of the story was just watching the events unfold. The ending was gentle and heartbreaking, which almost redeemed the slow middle.

I really enjoyed another novel of Cash’s, A Land More Kind Than Home, so although The Last Ballad fell flat for me, I still look forward to his subsequent books.
Many thanks to Edelweiss and William Morrow for the advance copy in exchange for my honest review.