Boy: Tales of Childhood, by Roald Dahl

boy

‘An autobiography is a book a person writes about his own life and it is usually full of all sorts of boring details. This is not an autobiography’

There’s so much to love about this book. Roald Dahl’s childhood is just as exciting, hilarious and touching as any of his fictional creations – if not more so given that these stories are true.

Beginning with a brief account of his parents’ lives, and continuing until the point where he leaves the UK aged 20, Roald Dahl recounts such classic tales as The Great Mouse Plot, Goat’s Tobacco, and that time he was a chocolate taster for Cadbury’s. As evidenced by this last entry, those familiar with his writing will notice many occasions where the seeds of later stories appear. But even if you didn’t read Roald Dahl growing up, there’s still plenty enough here to keep you hooked.

One of my very favourite stories is the account of the family’s holidays in Norway. Not having been to Norway myself I can’t confirm whether it really is as marvellous as the depiction given, but the story does a wonderful job of conjuring up the magic of childhood holidays regardless of where you went. It includes excellent depictions of food, making the whole thing reminiscent of classic adventures such as those of the Famous Five or Swallows and Amazons. As is the case with those stories however, I suspect the food isn’t quite as good in real life as it seems in the reader’s imagination! I can confirm the the sweet brown Norwegian cheese known as gjetost really is delicious though.

But while the Famous Five and Swallows and Amazons conveniently skip time spent at school, much of Boy is spent describing the trials and tribulations of attending a 1920s boarding school. This makes it reminiscent of classic school stories as well as adventures, which only adds to its charm.

It’s one of my all time favourite books, and I highly recommend it to everyone, regardless of whether you’re familiar with either Dahl’s fiction (though I find it hard to imagine anyone is totally unaware of this) or with the other classic tales it brings to mind. It’s witty and magical, and guaranteed to make you smile.

 

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