A Quick Review of The Little Match Girl Strikes Back


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an empowering re-telling of a Hans Christian Anderson story of an impoverished match-seller struggling to make a living selling matches on the freezing streets. Subverting the tragedy of Anderson’s tale, this transposes the story onto the streets of London, where young Bridie, in her mother’s borrowed slippers, traipses through the cold and gloomy streets intent on making enough money to buy a goose for dinner for herself and her family. This desire to put goose on the table invariably brings to mind A Christmas Carol, and indeed the book is littered with symbols of well-known Victorian and Dickensian tropes. Indeed, Mr Dickens himself make a brief appearance in the story as being the voice of social conscience for the people of the time, which I found somewhat amusing given Dickens’s fraught relationship with the Danish author.

In this book, we have our young match seller meeting Annie Besant, a socialist, activist, and campaigner for women’s rights and welfare, and inspiring her to become involved in supporting the match girls’ strike of 1888, where the women and girls, who were being poisoned from exposure to the phosphorous used in the ‘dipping’ of the matches during the manufacturing process, went on strike against the unfair dismissal of one of their female co-workers.

It was an interesting enough read, with the illustrations in tonal shades of grey, black, white with splashes of red across the page bringing to mind Victorian industrialisation, with red-brick factories shrouded in smog, soot, and smoke. There is magic in the tale – and there are rules to magic. However, it was somewhat preachy, and the pathos of the original tale is entirely lost.

View all my reviews

Published by Deborah Siddoway

Dickens enthusiast, book lover, wine drinker, writer, lover of all things Victorian, and happily divorced mother of two lovely (and very tall) boys.

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