Here is a girl who is good, who is smart (really, really smart actually) and who hails from a home that is more hurtful than not and she has absolutely no qualms about getting her own back. It was refreshing.
Matilda, a little 4 year old, with the brains of a genius and the good sense of a wise old crone, sets out to deal with her blundering parents and cruel headmistress with every weapon in her arsenal and let me warn you, the fire power packed by this little tyke is not to be sneezed at.
Roald Dahl’s characters are wonderfully liberating. Not only are they colourful and vivid, they bounce around the extremes of good and bad with surprising ease. He makes it so easy for us to hate the antagonists of the book- Mr. Wormwood and Miss Trunchbull- because they have no redeeming qualities to speak of. So, when they are taught a sound lesson by our indomitable heroine, no uncomfortable twinges of conscience interfere with the gleeful clapping going on in our heads. Dahl actively chooses NOT to enhance the goodness of the heart by making her a passive good little girl who has little role to play in the making of her fortunes. The book starts off innocuously enough, seeming to set the stage for a child genius who is silent and harmless. But, a few chapters in, Matilda, instead, leaps forward and takes the reins into her own hand giving the reader a very refreshing thrill of surprise. After that, Dahl sits back and lets Matilda do her thing.
For a four year old, she accomplishes more in a year, than most of us could do in a lifetime and she ensures that you, the reader, is along with her the entire way. How could one not be taken in by the little girl who has read all those books at 4 that I’m still struggling to read at 23?
Matilda is one of Dahl’s best characters. She is also one of his most fleshed-out characters. She has the smarts of Hermoine combined with the mischief of Fred and George and the moral integrity of Harry (forgive me the Harry Potter references. I’ve been spending a little too much time in his company recently). So, dear reader, you will start Matilda with a smile, give a few well-deserved chuckles in between and end with a laugh that will last a lot longer than the 233 pages of the book.