Author: Roald Dahl
Illustrator: Quentin Blake
My rating: 5 of 5
Matilda is a bright, precocious child who early on finds herself at odds with the rest of her self-absorbed, crooked, money-grubbing family. As she grows, she finds herself in a quiet battle to keep from being crushed by these people who fail to recognize either her brilliance or her character. When she begins school, Matilda finally discovers someone who truly sees her in the person of her teacher, Miss Honey. But will Matilda and Miss Honey ever have a peaceful, happy life, or will their nemeses–Matilda’s parents and the school headmistress, Miss Trunchbull–continue to dominate their lives forever?
Matilda displays a darker side of Roald Dahl’s writing–one which I think is present in all of his books, but which is much more evident here. It shows the tragic contrast between what should be and what is. The Wormwoods (Matilda’s parents) and Miss Trunchbull are such exceedingly dark and repulsive people that you can’t help cheering Matilda on as she pits brains against power–and wins, repeatedly, with amusing results. I appreciate that Dahl doesn’t sugar-coat the story, down to the fact that Matilda herself is out for revenge at several points. (I rather think that too much of the blather children are fed is too sugar-coated and leaves them unprepared for life. Personal opinion.) I love that Miss Honey and Matilda are really a ray of hope for each other–each is exactly what the other needs, and in the end, they are able to choose each other. Matilda is a classic children’s story that everyone should read at least once (and probably more times than that) because, in spite of the darkness, it is a beautiful story.