The farm next to ours is owned by Mr and Mrs Gregg.
Much like Matilda, the narrator of The Magic Finger is a very unusual girl indeed – she is able to punish those around her with just the tip of her finger. The Gregg family are infamous local hunters, taking the lives of innocent wildlife without apologies or care, and our narrator has had enough. With one carefully aimed point of her finger, the Gregg family’s fortunes are suddenly reversed and the hunters become the hunted…
The Magic Finger is a short story about identifying an innocence in society, righting an injustice and putting someone in the shoes of their victim. The Gregg family are forced into the role of the ducks they hunt – having to make nests, forage for food and see the barrel of a gun from the other end. It’s a dark story with a strong moral compass, lightened by Blake’s quirky illustrations and the humour of ducks behaving as humans.
Most of Dahl’s books have a motive, idea or message masked beneath the humour or heart-strings but The Magic Finger’s message is a lot more overt than usual and, as such, it feels too worthy when compared with his other stories. I like my Dahl with clever whimsy and whilst the concept of switching the Gregg family with the ducks is brilliant, the stance of the narrator is a little too preachy for the book to be enjoyable. There’s no relationship built between the reader and the vigilante narrator and so it’s difficult to root for her – in Matilda we happily cheer when a small girl takes revenge on odious adults but in The Magic Finger not enough is made of the crime to fit the punishment doled out.