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The Full Matilda
by David Haynes

Category: Fiction / Literary
370 pages; ISBN: 0767915690

Rating: 9/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Norman Goldman


David Haynes" latest novel, The Full Matilda, focuses on the memoirs of a tough and feisty fictional character, Matilda Housewright, who was born during the early years of the last century, and grew up in Washington, D.C. in the home of a head steward or majordomo to a US Senator.
The story is recounted through the voice of Matilda as well as various male members of her family passing from one generation to the next.

Haynes’ delightful work of fiction is resplendent with warm dialogue, mesmerizing words and descriptions. You almost have the feeling that the narrators are in the same room as yourself. Just reading the title of the first chapter, The First Thing I have To Tell You sets the theme and tone of what is to follow. Immediately, the principal narrator, Matilda Houswright, informs us that although her father may have been in the service of a well-known US Senator, her family was to remain invisible.
It is this invisibility that continually runs through the book, reflecting the poignant remarks made by Matilda at her father’s funeral when she states: “Jacob Housewright, a man who, although almost always there in the corner of the room just waiting to respond to every need, seemed at the same time to be invisible, seemed not to be there at all.”

Readers are also provided with an insightful perspective through the eyes of three generations of the life and times of African Americans, who although may not have grown up in the ghetto, were not spared the blatant racism as well the insensitivity that surrounded them.
When Matilda’s brother Martin goes into the catering business, that eventually propels him to wealth and success, he is still constantly reminded that he and his staff are African Americans and are to “remember their place.” Matilda, who initially joins her brother in his catering business, passes on instructions to their staff that they are to accept their role as invisibility although they may not like it. These were the lessons that she was taught by her father and she or they were not to question their justification. On the other hand, she makes it clear that “although on the surface it might seem otherwise, our lives have almost nothing to do with blind obedience. The blindly obedient do not think. We do. What our lives are about is easing the way, smoothing things over; we are a kind of social Vaseline.” The Housewright’s principal role in life was to take care and to perform their tasks as flawlessly as possible.

Haynes, who is an underrated novelist, has fashioned a great story that once you have completed this latest novel will entice many to read some or all of his previous work, if they have not already done so.

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