Matilda

by Roald Dahl

Interestingly, this was not one I remember reading as well as the others. Not to say I didn’t (I’m sure I did, since there were parts I didn’t quite remember but when certain scenes came I went “yes, I remember that”).

I would say it’s better written than what I’ve read already, which makes a kind of sense since it was published after them. And by better written, I mean the plot feels tighter.

There’s a definite progression from the awfulness of Matilda’s parents (which is the second case of terrible relatives in a Dahl book; the other I always think of is James and the Giant, and how I love that story even if the literal experience would terrify me as I have a penetrating fear of spiders. I respect them, but they freak me out) to the terror of Miss Trunchball. It builds up nicely to the reveal about Miss Honey’s past and accumulates in Mathilda’s last miracle, as the text calls it.

But what I thought was best about it was the moments of quiet, a slightly reflective air infused in the text. It had less monstrous wonders and more intellectual wonders. Or at least, with so much focus Maltida’s mind – her reading, her arithmetic, her mircalous fiery power to move and lift objects – the sense of wonder was based on the possibilities of the mental plane.

I did love reading how Matilda would check out books from the library and take them home and drink hot chocolate as she read them. That little scene near the beginning really spoke to me. Also her great curiosity and absorption of knowledge was itself a kind of wonder to behold and somewhat of an inspiration.

I liked Miss Honey too, for her dedication to teaching and her kindness. And for surviving and managing in such a terrible situation through most of her life. As I read about it, I could see her as a variant of Cinderella: both parents dead, forced to do all the household chores, and bound to a terrifying authority figure through trained abuse. So hats off to you, Miss Honey for making it out of there. And Matilda, too, for helping.

Also, does Dahl have an interest in animal heartbeats? And especially mouse heartbeats? As both Matilda and The Witches make a point of having their protagonist tell their parental figure about it at the end.

Overall, I enjoyed it. It was different but it was quite good. I loved Quentin Blake’s pictures in this one for some reason. I think I might remember them the best of all the Roald Dahl books I have.

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