Sunday, February 27, 2022

Review - Matilda

Original Title: Matilda
Series: -
Author: Roald Dahl
Published: October 1st, 1988

Publisher: Puffin (2007 edition)


First of all, guys, sorry for my long absence. It’s been a crazy couple of months. But I haven’t given up books, and today, I come back with this short but powerful classic, that I read in one sitting.

This is, in fact, my very first book by Roald Dahl. I grew up watching the 1996 movie adaptation, with Mara Wilson and Danny de Vito, and I’m sure more than one 90s kid out there –like me– wanted to have Matilda’s powers, more than anything in the world. If you are reading this, I feel you. Personally (and I’m sure I’m not the only one), I saw a lot of myself in her love for books, and the company they meant for her, that was such a lonely girl.

I admit I was expecting the book to be just like the movie, but upon reading it, I see that, for the adaptation, they kept the basic storyline, and took it a little further. For example, in the book there’s no scene with Matilda going to the Trunchbull’s house at night during a windstorm, and scaring her with the crazy clock, and Magnus Honey’s portrait, nor her adventure with Miss Honey, inside the Trunchbull’s house. Sadly, because I was really looking forward to those scenes.

Yet, it’s not a bad book, and I was actually surprised of how realistic it is, even for a book geared towards children.

I personally think Miss Honey is a strong, incredible female character. Through her sad story, losing her parents and being forced to live with her horrible aunt, she was brave enough to set her limits and leave behind the bad life she was living, with a person that abused her, both physically and mentally. She didn’t ask permission to do it, she just saw her chance of freedom, and took it. True, she lived with almost nothing, in the farmer’s cottage she rented, and even though she couldn’t even dispose of her own salary, nothing would make her go back to her aunt. I loved her for it, for her courage to say “I had enough” and do something about it, which makes her, in my opinion, the bravest person in this book. Her struggle is real, and I’m sure a lot of people can feel identified with her.

Also, and in despite of everything she went through, Miss Honey didn’t lose her sweetness and love for teaching. And that love and true encouragement are deeper than any kind of affection Matilda ever got from her grotesque, shallow parents, who never cared about her, her need of education, or the nurturing of her unique intellect. She’s clearly a neglected, misunderstood child, as there are a lot in the world. She’s a girl with extraordinary talents –magic powers aside–, virtually ignored by her parents, so engrossed in their own lives that cannot possibly see how special their daughter is. They are, in this case, the villains, portrayed in a cartoonish way that, in fact, is absolutely realistic. Matilda finds comfort in books, and reading becomes her everything, her passion, her escape. But my point is, no one can deny that those people truly exist, and that there are a lot of Matildas out there, in the different corners of the world, with self-absorbed families that do not listen nor care about their needs and talents. So, the fact that she gets a happy ending, with a new mother that truly appreciates everything she is, is a true message of hope, in which we are told that the circumstances of our birth do not determine our future, if we are brave enough to do what’s needed to change our lives.

The main villain, on the other hand, is absolutely cartoonish. Yet, the Trunchbull’s attitude isn’t completely fictional, as evil teachers definitely exist. Although, I doubt that, in real life, any other teacher could have survived the lawsuit that would have followed after grabbing a girl by her hair and throwing her over the fence, or even locking children in The Chokey (which I do not find funny at all). The Trunchbull is one of those villains that you just cannot wait to see paying for her evil, and in the movie, this is a lot funnier in terms of revenge from the school children that comes after Matilda terrifies her, writing as Magnus in the blackboard. They made her a lot more superstitious than in the book, and that is the weakness Matilda exploits to defeat her. Obviously, she has no redeeming qualities, and when she’s gone, she’s gone. No one hears about her again. But my point is, where are the parents in this book, that do not appear or do anything to prevent this monster from literally torturing their children? All the adults that could be here protecting their children, seem to be no more caring that Matilda’s own parents, virtually ignoring what happens in the school, and not doing anything about it. They are absolutely absent in this matter, which could be interpreted in more than one way.

Overall, I think it is a good book, with a great message, about seeing your own good qualities, and how wonderful you can be, even if those around you don’t listen, or don’t care. Basically, it says that you need to recognize your talent and attitude, and go for what you want and need, because no one will do it for you. And this is visible both with Matilda, and Miss Honey. In despite that one is a child and the other, a grown-up, it’s possible to understand that they come from similar backgrounds, from families that didn’t love them, in despite of the amazing people they were, or could be.

And also, I liked that even though Matilda’s powers fade with time, her personality isn’t tied to them, because when she uses her mental strength to study and get new knowledge, she can finally harness the full potential of her unusual mind. She may not be able to flip glasses anymore, but she’s no less smart or amazing because of that.

So, in short, it’s a good classic that deserves a read. It goes quickly, and it’s enjoyable for both kids and adults.


Thank you for reading, guys!
See you soon!