Matilda by Roald Dahl
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This might be one of the most perfect books for readers. It's about a reader who just wants to get her read on and bad people are trying to stop her.
Instant character attachment!
Fully involved in the "tumultuous" plot!
"Let my reader goooo...." sing the readers!
What a wonderful tale! Little Matilda is saddled with a nasty father, a fairly terrible mother and an indifferent brother. Matilda just wants to read. Why read when we've got the telly, wonder her disgusting parents. After being crapped on enough times, Matilda begins taking out her revenge in the whip-smartest ways and so ensues the fun!
Dahl's style is all over this. His bad guys are awfully bad, I mean really wonderfully rotten. His hero is intelligent and intrepid, with Dahl no doubt using his secret agent background to infuse even the simplest fairytale with spy-craft cunning. His story is episodic. You can see the acts/scenes play out with definitive beginnings and ends, as if he wrote a handful of short stories and plugged them into one book.
Negatives include some unbelievably bad bad guy moments that leave us boring adult readers thinking, "well that could never happen"...because we're dumb. Also, I don't think this needed the dip it takes into magical fantasy. It was doing perfectly fine without it. I rather liked that Matilda was solving her problems on her own without a supernatural assistance. It was more impressive.
Lots of adult subject matter herein (Suicide?!...shit dude, that's heavy) and I was taken back a bit at first. This is a kid's book after all. But I guess even I'd forgotten that kid's books used to dish out the tough stuff back in the old days. Now it's all about princesses and pretty pretty rainbow ponies, and if one of them gets a cold, it's a fucking big deal.
I was considering reading this to my niece, who just turned six, so I wanted to pre-read it first to make sure it was suitable. I wasn't actually worried about the subject matter (and I'm still not), I was more concerned about the length. She's not into long books yet, you see. Not much of an attention span on that girl, but I'm partly to blame. Historically speaking, when she's come to visit it becomes a whirlwind of "WHAT DO WE DO NEXT!!!", because when she was about 3 to 5 years old I just wanted to keep her entertained. I might've gone overboard. She's come to expect a circus for every visit to my house. Nonetheless, having finally read Matilda and knowing how much my niece loves to read, I do believe this will soon become an absolute favorite of hers as it as has so quickly become one of mine.
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