Sunday, 1 February 2015

Review: Boy by Roald Dahl

British author Roald Dahl's autobiography about his childhood may have been intended for middle-grade readers and contains the occasional tall tale (or possibly some light exaggerations,) but it is also an enjoyable, short read for adults. I picked this one up from a secondhand book store when I was feeling a bit down recently, and soon found myself laughing and smiling as the author recounted an event in his childhood where he and his chums got their revenge on the particularly vile old woman who worked at the sweet store in his town. The story reads very much like Roald Dahl's children's novels, which makes me think that there was more than more than the occasional exaggeration in there. Still, it's funny to think of their being such a vile woman, and running a sweet shop no less, and the inventive way that a group of boys who had not yet reached their tenth birthday got their revenge. There are sad moments--Dahl lost his sister to a childhood illness and then his father passed away from grief, along with amusing anecdotes about family holidays to Norway (where Dahl's grandparents lived,) and how at Dahl's boarding school the boys were often asked to taste test new types of chocolate bars for the nearby Cadbury factory. A little uncomfortable to read is Dahl's accounts of the many beatings that he and his fellow students were forced to endure, at possible pleasure of various teachers, headmasters and other adults. One headmaster who seemed to enjoy particularly brutal beatings later became the Archbishop of Canterbury, which leaves the adult Dahl questioning why such brutal people could also claim to be messengers of God. Finally, the autobiography ends with Dahl finding employment with Shell and being sent away to work in Africa. (Much to his pleasure.) 

I enjoyed reading this one, though it is what it is, a slightly embellished series of stories from an old man, designed to entertain children and anyone else that cares to join in. 

Highly recommended.