'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 23 December 2015

Review: Marguerite's Christmas

If the exquisite cover of this book isn't enough to entrance you, sneak the cover open and witness the candy stripe endpapers, the tartan half title page, the whimsical, wordless, snowscape opening pages, and then the impactful opening line:

Marguerite Godin would be happy if she never had to set foot outside her house ever again.

You want to know more about Marguerite, right? Marguerite in her stunning, mid-century modern home. Neat. Tidy. Stylish. Peering from the front window with her cup of tea and the calendar set at 24 December.

It's not that Marguerite doesn't like Christmas or doesn't want to see her family. She wants for them nothing but happiness. It's just that she's tired. She's getting old. Her hands are beginning to shake. It's hard to whip up hors d'oeuvres and pin the wreaths around the house.

Things are different now.

Especially since her husband died, followed by her oldest friend, Nicole, then her brother, her neighbour, then many other friends she once knew ...

Such is life. And she knows her turn is coming.

Marguerite's slippers make a schlumping sound on the floor as she prepares for a Christmas Eve on her own. She'll put up with the horrid schlumping sound rather than risk walking barefoot and falling, like her friend Rita. If she fell, she might lie there for days and no one would come to find her and she'd starve to death. What a fuss that would cause. It would mortify her.

Marguerite prepares her frozen meal, pops a champagne cork and settles into her chair where comfort and familiarity envelop her. She's truly happy here. Outside is so dangerous. There are criminals everywhere. And she might fall ...

Then, SCREECH BANG! A car comes off the road outside her house and there's a frantic knock at the door. She peeks outside the window. What if they're a family of robbers? Anxiety grips her. It's too risky to open the door to see if they're okay. But what if they need her? What should she do?

Will this experience encourage her to take a step outside the comforting cocoon that is her home, her mind, her heart?

The subtlety and depth of this story is overwhelmingly beautiful--both in text and image. Entering Marguerite's world is a true privilege and all children (and adults) would broaden their minds and expand their hearts exponentially to pay witness to this Other World of the elderly.

Eye-opening. Charming. Heartbreaking. Enlightening. Exquisitely, exquisitely illustrated. This is one thoroughly moving and beautifully-created picture book. One of my Best Books for 2015.

Title: Marguerite's Christmas
Author: India Desjardins
Illustrator: Pascal Blanchet
Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books, $30.40 RRP
Publication Date: 3 November 2015
Format: Hard cover, cloth-bound
ISBN: 9781592701780
For ages: 5+
Type: Picture Book