Fiction — audiobook. Read by Kate Winslet. Penguin Audio, 2013. Originally published 1988. 4 hours, 20 minutes. Library copy.
Matilda Wormwood, a precious five-year-old, is utterly brilliant having read Charles Dickens by the age of four and learned her multiplication tables by the age of five and a half. Her parents are uninterested in Matilda and do not believe she could possibly be as smart as she is. Her father, in particular, treats her terrible telling her to shut up and tearing up her library books when she will not watch the telly.
Yet her father has nothing on Miss Agatha Trunchbull, the abusive headmistress of the village’s primary school who places children in the chokey, a ten-by-ten box lined with glass and nails that cut the occupant. Matilda’s teacher, Miss Honey, wants to move the young girl to a higher grade, but Miss Trunchbull refuses insisting Matilda is the terrible child her father insist she is. When Matilda learns Miss Trunchbull’s bullying extends beyond the students, she uses her newly discovered power of telekinesis to get revenge.
Is there a better way to start the read-a-thon than listening to an audiobook about a young girl who loves to read? I’ve seen the 1996 film adaptation multiple times yet have never read the original novel. The novel is just as charming as the movie, which I should have expected based on my experiences with other novels by Dahl, and I adored Matilda’s antics. (I did miss the exciting and terrifying scene in the movie where she goes to Miss Trunchbull’s house, though.)
Now that I’m older, the social commentary behind the novel becomes more evident — absentee parenting, the use of the television as a babysitter, the substitution of television programming for books. Matilda’s parents do not take an active role in life, which the narrator at the beginning of the novel labels as the worst kind of parent, but they are glued to the television, have no interest in books, and think their daughter should spend all day watching the television rather than using her imagination.
Even worse, the Wormwoods would not believe their daughter if she told them about Miss Trunchbull because they assume, as an imaginative child, she is inherently a liar and, as a girl, she is valued less than her brother, Mike. But Matilda is so smart and brave showing children that they are valuable, can be braver than adults, and that if people are toxic, even if they are family, then you do not have to stay with them.
As for the audiobook, I loved Kate Winslet’s narration. Her voices, particularly the one she used for Hortensia as the upper form girl ate her bag of crisps, were wonderful.
The Classics Club:
I read this book for the Classics Club, which challenges participants read and discuss fifty or more books considered to be classics within a five year period. My personal goal for this project is to read seventy-five books in three years ending on August 15, 2017. You can find out more information by checking out my introductory post, project post, or spreadsheet of titles.