The Big Read

Books from Childhood – No. 74 Matilda, Roald Dahl

I finally get to talk about a different author and it couldn’t be a better one.

I read this book at a much older age than you are supposed to, although I can’t remember what age that was. I just remember that compared to the other Dahl books on my shelf Matilda appeared enormously thick, all 240 page of it. As a result it took me a long time to get around to reading it but boy was it worth it.

If you don’t know the story Matilda is a girl of 5 years old who has extraordinary intellectual gifts but is neglected by her cruel ignorant parents. She also has to endure her terrifying bully of a Headmistress Ms. Trunchball but Matilda finds away to teach them all a lesson and look out for her caring class teacher Miss Honey. Turns out she has magic powers.

Matilda is every bookish little girl’s dream. Matilda is crazy clever but instead of being bullied as a nerd she is super popular because of her unfailing kindness; I suppose 5 year olds are much less corrupted by social expectations so being clever can be cool. The stupid mean grown ups get taught  a lesson (what child doesn’t want that) and there is a happy ending.

To children this book is hilarious. Dahl is a master of comedy and I feel that this is his funniest work. His humour is both slapstick and satirical ridiculing the way Matilda’s family vapidly worship their TV. The characters of Mr and Mrs Wormwood are just imbeciles and Dahl makes you hate them just the right amount so that you will revel in their downfall but don’t want any serious harm to come to them. Ms. Trunchball on the other hand I would rank amongst the best fictional villains of all time that’s how evil she is. She could’ve been painfully torn limb from limb by a pack of wolves and I would’ve rejoiced but I get why the story didn’t go that way, just in case it gave children some rather disturbing ideas.

There is of course the hilarious Danny De Vito film to which comparison is inevitable. In the book Matilda uses her magic powers much less than in the film and as cool as seeing all her belongings spin round her room is, in the book I like that what Matilda relies upon most is her intellect. It allows for the idea that you don’t need magic powers to over come the difficulties in your life, you just have to be smart about it.

But my favourite adaptation of Matilda is the musical. Not only are the songs brilliant but it captures the atmosphere of the book such much more than the film. It is a celebration of childhood and imagination and it is an utter joy to watch. Go see it.

Rating: 4/5

Would recommend to: all children, everywhere, and their parents too.

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