April 20, 2014 by Heidi
Title: Matilda [Goodreads]
Author: Roald Dahl [Website]
Narrator: Kate Winslet
Standing: Stand alone.
Genre: Middle Grade, Magical Realism
Published: July 3rd, 2013 by Penguin Audio (Originally published 1988).
Format: Audiobook; 4 hrs, 18 min.
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
“The Trunchbull” is no match for Matilda!
Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she’s just a nuisance. She expects school to be different but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back. It’ll take a superhuman genius to give Miss Trunchbull what she deserves and Matilda may be just the one to do it!
How does one properly review one of their all time favorite books? One they’ve read countless times and loved complete with each and every go? Simply put, you cannot. Matilda is one of those books for me. Ergo, today will be a bit of a love letter to Roald Dahl rather than my usual attempt at an impartial critical review.
I honestly don’t even remember the first time I read Matilda. It seems as if it’s always been a part of my life, like Where the Wild Things Are or Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. If I had to guess, I’d say that it was one of the myriad of books my mother read to my brother and I chapter by chapter each night before bed. It’s hard not to love those books which most remind us of those carefree and safe days of childhood.
Since that first reading, I have read Matilda a number of times. I adore the movie, which is really very well done imho, but it is this most recent reading that had me charmed as if I were first discovering the story. Something about Roald Dahl’s work fairly calls to be read aloud, and Kate Winslet’s narration does the story justice as only a British woman willing to fully embrace the whimsy could. Kate Winslet is perfect for the fantastic yet tragic stories that Dahl weaves in a way that some of my other favorite voice actresses (Kate Reading, Katherine Kellgren) wouldn’t have been able to pull off. His work requires a balance of wonder and merriment with the somber and downtrodden. Charming but with a level of seriousness that works to underscore the triumphs. Quite frankly, she took one of my favorite works and improved it. And that, my friends, is hard to do.
While I’ve never met a Roald Dahl book I didn’t like, Matilda shall forever remain my favorite. Something about a precocious yet obliviously modest young girl always catches me, but with Matilda in particular I think I love her sense of justice. In fact given the powers she develops, I’d love to put her in play as a vigilante superhero for the younger generations. She has a unique sense of fair and right, the willingness to question what adults do, and the bravery to punish them for those deeds she deems unjust. Now, I’m not recommending all 5-year-olds go around doing things like bleaching their father’s hair when they feel life has been unfair, but if your father’s a lowdown, no-good crook GO FOR IT I SAY*! I love that she’s willing to stand up to the Trunchbull and never once looks down upon Miss Honey for her own inability to do so. In fact, she respects Miss Honey’s absolute fear of the woman and her small rebellions in life, finding a way to vanquish her foe without leaning on another soul.
Perhaps Roald Dahl’s books have a continuing message of ‘most adults are either scum or scared sheep’, but they also have this underbeating heart that insists that some of us will never really grow up–and shouldn’t we all strive to be those few? The Willie Wonkas and the Miss Honeys and the Norwegian Grandmothers? That’s the adult I want to be, the one that still believes in magic. And Roald Dahl’s book makes me believe.
And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.
*Disclaimer to my future children should you read this: I DON’T MEAN YOU YOUR FATHER’S A GOOD PERSON.
Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: Obviously I’m a rabid Roald Dahl fan. Kate Winslet was a wonderful narrator, I’d love to listen to her rendition of Sense and Sensibility or The Magic Finger.
Recommended for: EVERYONE! Yes, this is one of those few books that should be universally read.
Get a second opinion:
Good Books and Good Wine – “Y’all, Winslet totally kills it as narrator and I mean that as the HIGHEST of all compliments!”
This review was written as part of the 2014 Armchair Audies.