Opening sentence: “An autobiography is a book a person writes about his own life and it is usually full of all sorts of boring details.”
As today would have been Roald Dahl’s 103rd birthday and it is officially Roald Dahl Day, I thought I’d share my review of his charming memoir, Boy: Tales of Childhood. I had a permanent smile on my face reading this. For some reason, it was one of the few Roald Dahl books I didn’t read as a child but, in retrospect, I think this was a good thing as I got so much enjoyment as an adult reading new (but familiar) little stories told in Roald Dahl’s unmistakable tone of voice. Familiar because, as well as insights into his background and upbringing (originally from a Norway, his family moved to Wales when he was small), the childhood stories he describes are the fuel for his amazing books.
A prime example: at his boarding school they got sent samples of chocolate from the local factory, Cadbury, to taste and give their honest opinion on, ‘inside the box there were twelve bars of chocolate, all of different shapes, all with different fillings and all with numbers from one to twelve stamped on the chocolate underneath.‘ It sent a little shiver of excitement down my spine reading this. To see where the idea for one of the most loved stories in the world came from – to me – is the most thrilling thing!
Another sweet learning was that at boarding school he had to write to his mother once a week and this was something he continued to do for 32 more years, until she died. He then discovered that she had kept every one of his letters to her, all which he signed ‘Love from, Boy.‘
Interestingly, he did not have a burning desire to be writer from a young age, that career path is not mentioned at all in his childhood, after school he joined the Shell Company as he wanted to travel to exotic places and decided a job that sent him around the world selling oil was as good a way as any to do that. He then became a fighter pilot in the RAF when war broke out and actually only published his first story in 1942 (aged 26), about a crash he was in as a fighter pilot.
I love that writing happened so organically for him, these wonderful tales just flowed out of him and it is fitting that a man who dreams up such amazing stories led such a charismatic life.