Book review: Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake. New York: Puffin Books, ©1988

As a librarian and book hoarder, it would surprise you to know that I haven't read Matilda until now! I was aware of her, but I haven't read the book or watched the movies. I did read one Roald Dahl book when I was a child, George's Marvelous Medicine.

Matilda Wormwood is a very smart girl in a very unappreciative home. Her father is in a corrupt automobile reselling business, while her mother is preoccupied with her friends and her vanity. She has a brother who her parents like more than her, and she finds solace in books. At a very young age, Matilda was already using the public library to borrow books. It's not just children's books but high literature! With the help of the kind librarian Mrs. Phelps, she finds a peace in books that she doesn't find in her family. She reads Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, William Faulkner, H.G. Wells, and most classics. Her reading list is in the book and I plan to go through that "Matilda reading list" someday.

Her parents discourage her from reading and they don't realize that Matilda is a genius. Matilda goes to school, and her teacher Miss Honey sees how smart Matilda is. She wants to help the girl be in a higher level class, but Matilda's parents don't see the point and even mock Matilda. Miss Honey seems to be the only person who genuinely cares about her. In school, Matilda also has one best-friend, Lavender.

Then comes Miss Trunchbull, the school principal who acts more like a dictator. She's unreasonable and hates children. She once observes Matilda's class and traumatizes all the children. In the book, she's exaggerated and humorous, but I think we can all relate because we might have encountered that one tyrannical teacher or authority in school.

I love the affection between student and teacher we can see with Miss Honey and Matilda. They once have tea together in Miss Honey's home and Matilda discovers that she lives in poverty due to her relation with Miss Trunchbull. Matilda plots a hilarious revenge against Miss Trunchbull when she discovers she has secret powers! I'm really glad that I didn't spoil myself on this one because this unexpected twist really made me happy for Matilda. In the end, there's a happy ending for her and Miss Honey.

I love that there's a positive portrayal of a librarian in the story. We have Mrs. Phelps who helps Matilda find books to read. While she appears to be the stereotypical librarian (a glasses-wearing old lady), her kind attitude and willingness to help Matilda is better than the usual cranky old woman image.

The thoughts of Matilda's mother about "beauty above brains" is laughable and I hope no one holds this view now. She thinks that Matilda's interest in books is useless in the world because for her a woman's goal isn't to develop herself, but to make herself as beautiful as possible so she can attract a rich man who will take care of her for the rest of her life! Miss Honey thinks that she's a hopeless case.

Next to Matilda the next character to root for is Miss Honey. She's an appreciative teacher. If you have been encouraged by a kind comment from a teacher before, you'll remember that with Miss Honey. Matilda is an inspiration for girls out there. Its funny, enlightening, and makes you want to read books.

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  1. Hi, just wanna say that I love reading your blogs po :)