Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Queen of Hearts

Queen of Hearts

Martha Brooks
For ages 12 and up
Farrar, Straus and Giroux , 2011   ISBN: 978-0374342296

In late spring in 1940 Papa’s younger brother, Oncle Gerard, arrived at Marie-Claire’s front door. For some years he had been hopping trains, living the life of a hobo, but now he has come for a visit. Marie-Claire, her brother Luc, and her little sister Josee are delighted to see Oncle Gerard. Their father is not. He has no time for his younger brother who has, so far, done nothing much with his life.

   Marie-Claire loves spending time with Oncle Gerard, who is funny and loveable; who is in short everything Papa is not. She even dares to sneak in to sit with Oncle Gerard when he gets sick with tuberculosis. When Oncle Gerard is moved to the TB sanatorium, Marie-Claire sneaks out of the house, and with Luc in tow, she hops a train and goes to visit her fun-loving uncle. She is appalled when she sees how sick her uncle is, and grateful that she is healthy even if she isn’t exactly happy.

   Then, on December 8th 1941, Marie-Claire’s life changes forever.  She is admitted to the TB sanatorium as a patient, along with Luc and little Josee. Somehow all three children have contracted TB, and Luc in particular is very sick indeed. Marie-Clair is sharing a room with another girl called Signy who has been at the sanatorium for a very long time. Though Signy has suffered a great deal, she still manages to be cheerful and welcoming, which drives Marie-Claire crazy. How can the girl be so cheerful when she has nothing to be cheerful about?

   Marie-Claire’s despondency deepens when she makes no progress in her battle against her TB, and when Luc dies she is overcome with feelings of grief, loss, and guilt. If she hadn’t brought Luc to see Oncle Gerard maybe Luc would not have got sick at all. Marie-Claire begins to wonder if she is ever going to get well. Perhaps she will end up like Signy and be a TB patient for years and years.

   In this powerful and beautifully written book the author tells Marie-Claire’s story using the teenage girl’s own voice. Readers grow to care about the strong-willed young woman who learns a great deal about herself, people, courage, and love in a very short period of time. She realizes that the face people show the world does not necessarily reflect how that person is feeling inside.