Miss Honey


Today’s post is not a book review.

Well . . . it is, but it’s not.

If you take my meaning.

You see, I’ve already written a review about Matilda, by Roald Dahl. Quite a long time ago, in fact. And it would be very odd to review the same book twice on the same blog. After all, there are so many brilliant, wonderful books that I haven’t even mentioned to you yet.

So please, don’t take this as a sign that I have run out of books.

I haven’t.

Still, today’s post is not a book review. It’s a character review. Because I think this particular character is worth raving about, despite the fact that in my previous review I didn’t have time to praise her at all.

I am talking, of course, about Miss Honey.

Miss Honey, for those of you that are not familiar with Roald Dahl’s classic, is Matilda’s teacher. She is the second person to recognize what an extraordinary child Matilda is, and the only one to do anything about it. Upon realizing that Matilda is much too advanced for her regular class, she immediately appeals to the school’s headmistress to have her bumped up to another level.

When the school’s headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, refuses to listen, Miss Honey immediately marches on to Matilda’s parents to open their eyes to the wonder that is their daughter.

Naturally, they also fail to listen.

What follows is an example of how powerful teachers can be in the lives of their students. Miss Honey, despite being told repeatedly to treat Matilda just the same as all of the other children, allows her the space and the resources she needs to continue growing. Books, time to herself, and, eventually, a positive, nurturing friendship that is unlike anything Matilda has experienced anywhere else. In short, she becomes Matilda’s saving grace, because no matter how smart a child is or how many books they have read, they cannot get along without someone to champion them.

Matilda is, of course, the heroine of this story, but I believe that Jennifer Honey doesn’t get enough recognition or acknowledgment, and I am going to tell you why. Besides being an exemplary teacher, Miss Honey has her own set of problems. A dead father, a legacy—and a paycheck—that is stolen week by week, and an abusive aunt that doubles as her immediate boss. She has been trampled on and hurt and, as of the moment when Matilda appears, she has no way out of the situation.

And yet, for all her trouble, Miss Honey continues to weather her storm with an amazing amount of quiet strength. She doesn’t lash out at her abuser as today’s heroines are wont to do in fits of anger. She is kind and patient with everyone that she meets, from her bitter and constantly angry aunt to the smallest child in her class. Instead of folding to her situation and allowing the abuse, she seeks out her own solution—despite having to live on an almost nonexistent paycheck—and removes herself from it, establishing what boundaries she is capable of. (A very, very hard thing to do for someone who has been consistently battered from childhood.) She scrimps and goes without, living mostly on the school lunches so that she has the freedom to make her own choices. And yet, in the midst of all of this, she is still able to see past her own problems and be a comfort and support for Matilda.


Roald Dahl’s masterpiece is very much a children’s book, with a child’s heart behind it, but looking at it through the eyes of an adult, I found the character of Miss Honey to be incredibly true-to-life and inspiring. Her sacrifices and immense strength took this beautiful book from an interesting and lasting read to a classic for me. If you haven’t picked it up, I would absolutely recommend it to you, no matter your age.

“There is little point in teaching anything backwards. The whole object of life, Headmistress, is to go forwards.”


I have a confession about this one.

I didn’t actually read it.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I have never, in my entire life, picked up a physical copy of this book and read it through start to finish.


Instead, I listened to it on Audible, narrated by the lovely and brilliant Kate Winslet.

Usually, I insist on reading a book before I would even think of getting the Audible version of it. (For one thing, audiobooks are expensive.) But they had a sale, and I was weak. Can books on sale be my weakness? I think that’s allowed.

It had better be allowed. Otherwise, I might be in trouble.

Anyway, if you haven’t heard the audio version of Matilda, please go buy it immediately and listen to it. It was incredible. Kate Winslet is a brilliant and wonderfully expressive reader, and her interpretation of this lovely little story was beyond charming. I was hooked from the first chapter.

As most of us probably know, Matilda is the story of a brilliant little girl growing up in a family that is—how shall we say—less brilliant. Her father is a crooked car salesman, and her mother plays bingo every afternoon. And so, little Matilda is left alone every day to fend for herself and find her own amusement. And every day, little Matilda walks herself down to the village library to sit in the big armchair that is much too large for her and read a book. Within a few weeks, she has read all of the children’s books the library has to offer, and the librarian offers her another, larger book. By Charles Dickens.

And so the classical education of a five year old begins. Matilda reads everything that she can get her hands on, and by the time she enters school, she is better read than many adults.

Miss Honey, her lovely young school teacher, is enchanted with Matilda’s potential, but thanks to a bullying headmistress—a woman as vicious as she is intimidating—Matilda is confined to the bottom class. With nothing to challenge her young mind, she quickly grows bored, and strange things begin to happen.

Thus begins one of my new favorite children’s books. Matilda was charming and witty, and in some ways, went far beyond the reaches of a regular children’s book. I found it a wonderful new treasure to add to my list of books read this year. Hopefully, one of these days, I’ll be able to sit down and read the book for myself.

Until then, I’ll continue to enjoy Kate Winslet’s version.