It should not be surprising that the man who wrote such classic and wildly unusual books for children such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, The Twits, and The Magic Finger as well as some ripe tales for adults, such as My Uncle Oswald, Switch Bitch, Cruelty, and Lust: Tales of Craving and Desire, should write an unorthodox style of biography.
Roald Dahl tells of his earliest days and he tells it in such a way that even his youngest readers will be able to follow along and suffer with Dahl through his various canings and whippings. Yes … the rather common form of punishment of the day – hard strikes of a cane against the buttocks – are described in searing detail and was, clearly, one of the main things this reader came away remembering. Dahl does mention that not all teachers or headmasters used the cane on schoolboys like him, but that this punishment clearly made an impression on him. What also makes an impression is the absolute helplessness when a young boy is falsely accused of something and must suffer the punishment for it.
There are a few other moments that aren’t about the cruelty of education in Dahl’s school day, such as learning how Dahl got the idea to write one of his most famous books, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We also get glimpses of pastoral vacations to Norway.
As an insightful biography, this book is a little lacking. As a memoir for children and young adults, this book definitely holds some interest. Of course we’re curious about the childhood of one of the world’s best-known writers, and we do get some insight – just not a lot of depth.
When I saw this offered on Netgalley – a site for publishers to offer new releases to potential reviewers -I was glad to be able to get a copy. I am surprised to discover since then that this book was first published in 1984. Clearly it’s not just Dahl’s fiction that is constantly in print.
Looking for a good book? If you’re curious about Roald Dahl’s early life, then Boy is definitely a book to read, but as it’s been available for almost 40 years, it’s possible you’ve already read it.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Boy: Tales of Childhood
author: Roald Dahl
publisher: Penguin Books
paperback, 181 pages