Genre: middle-grade fiction
Length: 240 pages
Setting: England, in the 1980s(ish)
Interest: I was looking for a 4-5 hour audiobook to listen to for a short trip last weekend. I’ve heard good things about Matilda but have never read it (it was on the list of BBC’s The Big Read for one thing). I thought it would be enjoyable for all in the car.
Summary: Matilda is a remarkable little girl with thoroughly awful parents. She teaches herself to read at the age of four (her parents actively discourage reading) and thereafter spends her afternoons in the library, devouring books. Her parents believe they are truly clever, and punish Matilda when she points out their faults. In return, Matilda devises pranks to punish them (particularly her father). When Matilda is sent to school, her teacher, Miss Honey, realizes what a remarkable child she is. Unfortunately, the headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, is a tyrant and refuses to make accommodations for Matilda. The whole school lives in terror of Miss Trunchbull. Matilda devises a trick to play on Miss Trunchbull to help Miss Honey, but everyone’s lives improve afterwards.
Final thoughts: This is an excellent example of Dahl’s work. He doesn’t pull any punches when he describes the powerlessness of children. He does show that if you are clever, you can usually best the bully. You also emphasizes the importance of sticking up for your friends and being true to yourself. Matilda isn’t really a substitute for every child, since she is so brilliant, and there is a touch of fantasy in the story (Matilda manifests a bit of telekinesis, mainly because she’s so bored in school). Even so, most children will be able to put themselves in the story any time they’ve had to deal with unfairness.
As an audiobook, the book was awesome. Kate Winslet read it and she did a remarkable job with the voices. Everyone had a British accent, so the setting was apparent by the voices. Also, you could tell by the voice the personality of the characters – Matilda’s mother was a harpy, her father was a preening idiot, Miss Trunchbull was a bully, and so on.
Title comes from: The main character
Reading challenges fulfilled: none since this was an audiobook
If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!