Monday, May 6, 2013


by Roald Dahl

Matilda, an intellectually precocious and sweet-natured girl, is dismissed and insulted by her oblivious, greedy, dishonest parents. Bored and aggravated by their bullying and ignorance, Matilda pulls pranks on her family, such as tricking her father into peroxiding his hair or making them think there is a ghost in the house. In school, Matilda befriends a loving teacher named Miss Honey who appreciates her, but the entire school suffers under the cartoonishly violent corporal punishment of the perpetually outraged headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. Her rage at the injustice of Trunchbull’s methods causes Matilda to demonstrate sudden telekinetic powers, which she develops in order to right a great wrong that had been done to Miss Honey long ago.

This book shines with Roald Dahl’s typical humor and quirky disregard for reality, but also deals with matters important to children such as being respected and fairness. Dahl’s own unpleasant experiences at boarding school inspired him to rage against injustice and bullying; this sort of personal outrage gives his protagonists real fire, and sparks the reader to cheer at the bullies’ comeuppance. A scene in which an older child tells Matilda that school is like a war surely rings true as well for any precocious and gentle soul who faced the mockery of groups of older children, and makes these elaborate children’s revenge fantasies more grounded in reality than their magic qualities would suggest. As Matilda says of Trunchbull’s outlandish acts, "Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it's unbelievable.” This could easily be said of Dahl’s philosophy and writing style. It’s a joy to watch Matilda put things right in such an outrageous and completely crazy way.

five stars

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