Sowmya Rajendran
HORRID HIGH by Payal Kapadia Puffin Books, Delhi, 2014, 311 pp., 299
November 2014, volume 38, No 11

If you started reading this book without taking a look at its cover-page, you may think it’s been written by Roald Dahl. Mean and stupid parents, adults who are dumb as soup, grown-ups who are outrageously wicked, a granny who is wise and can stop them all (remember The Witches?)—they are all here. But after a point, you are likely suspect that this isn’t really Roald Dahl—the evil stops being entertaining half-way through and just begins to sound repetitive.

Horrid High is about a school for children whose parents want to dump them there and forget about them. Ferg Gottin is one such child. His parents don’t care about him and don’t have any time for him (just like the ones in Matilda). His mother apparently didn’t ‘cook or clean because work made her perspire, and perspiring made her blow-dried hair curl up at the ends in the ugliest way.’ No similar judgment about the father’s lack of interest in housework though—he’s chided for neglecting the boy because of his busy career but not for anything else. This may sound like nitpicking but Ferg’s mother’s character reads exactly like one of those portrayals of ‘modern’ women in a moralistic movie made in the 80s.

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