October 20th, 2011

book and cup

#103 Boy: Tales of Childhood - Roald Dahl (1984)

The remarkable story of Roald Dahl's early years at school and with his family. Like his stories, Dahl's childhood tales are unmissable. This edition has a great new Quentin Blake cover and a new end section of facts about Roald Dahl.

I don't generally read children's or young adult books, but had to make an exception with this. I must have read many books in my childhood - as I read voraciously - some things don't change much. However the three books that have stayed with me longest and most vividly are: Beverly Nichols 'The Tree that Sat down' Nina Bawden's 'Carrie's War' and Roald Dahl's 'Danny the Champion of the world' The later I remember with such affection that although I was never necessarily a huge Dahl fan, I always regarded him and his work as something precious, something from a time when life was simpler. Many years later during a literacy lesson at the school I am a teaching assistant at - the children were played an extract from a dvd, with a voice over of Roald Dahl, reading from "Boy" I decided I must read this book at some point - as I would have considered myself a little past the natural age for Roald Dahl when this was first published. Well recently a copy of this book and his other autobiographical volume going Solo came my way - and so I had the chance.

Non of that is in way much of a review - merely an explanation.

At first - just for a few pages - I was irritated my the heavy - "elderly adult talking to child" voice that pervades the first few pages -as Dahl explains his parents Norwegian background. An unreasonable irritation on my part as the author was only writing for his usual audience, and I am not it. However I quickly settled into the charming and often shocking anecdotes of Dahl's early years. Of course the treatment of children during the 1920's is rather different from today - but the harsh treatment of children by adults, including violence I found horrifying. I can easily see where Dahl got his inspiration for much of his fiction from. So many of Dahl's children's stories seem to pit children against terrible adults. Dahl's home life was blissfully happy, but as so many other boys of his age did, he frequently fell foul of the school masters and the older boys (Boazers at Repton) who held positions of some power over him. Roald Dahl's well known humor comes out in these stories of his childood, which would I am sure delight all fans of Roald Dahl - whatever their age. Overall I found this a thoroughly charming read.