The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches, originally published in French as La Petite Fille qui Aimait Trop les Alumettes, dominated the bestseller lists and captured major media attention when it appeared in Quebec. It was the first novel published in Quebec ever to be nominated -- let alone become a finalist -- for France's prestigious Prix Renaudot.
It is a magic-realist story of a boy and girl who grow up isolated (except through books and fairy tales) from the outside world and who must confront it together upon their father's suicide. Soucy's signature playfulness, surprising twists, and fascination with guilt, cruelty, and violence make The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches a triumph.
When it appeared in 1998, Soucy's work received critical raves and was the first novel published in Quebec ever to be nominated for France's celebrated Prix Renaudot. Magic realist in tone, the novel chronicles the story of two brothers who grow up isolated from and largely ignorant of the world outside their father's massive estate, save for information gleaned from books and fairy tales. After their father dies, the boys must confront their surroundings, both familiar and unfamiliar; encounters with the inhabitants of the neighboring village rapidly and cruelly strip away their innocence. Occasionally, Soucy's colorful prose captivates, but more frequently the convoluted nature of the narrative befuddles and keeps the reader from following the course of events. A good deal of the writing is stilted and perplexing, as the narrator's frame of reference consists mainly of imagined objects and perspectives born solely of books, and therefore (understandably) divorced from reality. To be sure, such a style reflects Soucy's creativity and inventiveness, and his writing abounds with expressive flights of fancy. Unfortunately, the cumulative effect is to keep the reader at arm's length, and to weaken the force of Soucy's innovative storytelling.