"The Full Matilda" by David Haynes

Photographs from the collection of SMU's DeGolyer Library.


The Boston Globe

"The Full Matilda isn't one of those seemingly endless, leaden, multigenerational sagas. It's a sprightly, amiable story that comes alive in countless precise, well-chosen details."

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Los Angeles Times

"A multigenerational saga such as The Full Matilda may seem a departure to readers who know Haynes' comic novels Live at Five and All American Dream Dolls, which skewered the mores of local news reporters and the kiddie beauty pageant circuit. ... But the sensitive rendering of a lost world plus the depth of feeling revealed through the relationships of Matilda and the men in her life places The Full Matilda in a broader context that one hopes brings Haynes the critical acclaim he so richly deserves."

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"[T]his vibrant family portrait tracks the rise of the Housewrights to a multimillion-dollar food distribution company. Along the way, it traces changes in sensibilities as each generation puts its own stamp on the meaning and manner of service."

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Kirkus Reviews

"Refreshingly unconventional saga of an African-American family and its brightest ornament. ...Haynes has a masterly way of not letting the reader become too comfortable with the serene surface of domestic life, where everything comes at a cost. A memorable portrait of a woman of character who charms, baffles, and infuriates four generations."

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Texas Monthly

"The Full Matilda is an elegant and bittersweet novel about Matilda Housewright, who bears not-always-silent witness to the social evolution of her African American family's near-century of domestic servitude to Washington, D.C.'s better families. Southern Methodist University professor David Haynes neatly presents the paradox of the Housewrights' situation -- the skills that enable them to build a food-service empire were born of a status not far removed from the house slaves of the previous century."

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San Francisco Chronicle

"...Haynes vividly re-creates the social mores of yesterday and a strong African American woman who catered to loved ones throughout her life whether they appreciated it or not. Most memorable is Matilda's proud and dignified voice. 'I knew myself quite well, as you should have surmised by now. I was not a woman raised to live in a hovel, be spat upon, or suffer indignities of any kind. I wouldn't have it.'"

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"Matilda Housewright possesses one of the most memorable, provocative and maddening voices in recent American fiction. Her story is at the center of The Full Matilda, the fine new novel of manners by David Haynes, who grew up in St. Louis and now teaches at Southern Methodist University in Dallas."

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"Twice a year, maybe three times if I'm lucky, I stumble across one of those rare novels so transporting that for days I am lost to my family. Laundry accumulates, dirty dishes teeter on the counter and e-mails go hopelessly unanswered. Just one chapter into The Full Matilda, and I knew I was headed for trouble.... Lucky readers of The Full Matilda should be prepared to put their lives on hold until the last page is turned."

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St. Paul Pioneer Press

"...With The Full Matilda, [Haynes] takes a quantum leap ... into more sober territory."

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"Energy and wild-eyed humor make [Haynes] on of the most underrated fiction writers alive."

Dallas Morning News

"A writer blessed with an ear for the truth and the talent to bring it to life in ever-delightful ways."

Washington Post

"The Full Matilda resembles movies such as George Cukor's 'The Philadelphia Story,' or plays like Noel Coward's 'Private Lives,' combining screwball farce, sharp dialogue and social commentary smuggled in via the seminal encounters Aunt Matilda has with each of the younger Housewrights."

Julianne Malveaux, economist and author of The Paradox of Loyalty: An African American Response to the War on Terrorism

"Partly quaint, yet thoroughly contemporary, hilarious, and poignant, this book is, throughout, a gem."