I’m a big Roald Dahl fan. Matilda was my first foray into Dahl’s wonderfully eccentric, devious mind and I never looked back. I have read almost all of Dahl’s children’s books, but for some reason never put my hands on Boy. I must admit, I’m not one for autobiographical stories; I find them to be either restrained or unnecessarily detailed. This Roald Dahl Day (September 13th), Boy made its way into my purse and so fate had it that I picked it up while riding the GO train and finished it by dinnertime.
I adore British schoolboy/schoolgirl stories. I grew up reading books like Mallory Towers, Naughtiest Girl in School, St. Claires, and all the other Enid Blyton favourites (ugh, North American schools PUT SOME BLYTON IN THE KIDS’ LIVES!). Give me a British / European boarding school setting and you have got me hooked. Luckily for me, Boy focuses on Dahl’s formative years in various private schools.
The anecdotes he has about tricks he played as a young boy, headmasters he dealt with, the boarding school camaraderie and way of life had me comfortably sucked in–like an old friend. What touched me was his immense love for his family. He shares that whenever he went away to school, he would always determine in what direction his family lay and then he would never sleep with his back to them. My heart melted. His affection for his step-mother (the only mother he has ever known) is more than apparent. He admired her strength probably even more than he could describe in his stories, and his love for her just warmed the pages.
Throughout the book there are childhood photographs, excerpts from old school letters, and scattered memories of sweet summers in Norway. For the first time, I got to see Roald the boy instead of Roald Dahl, the old man sitting at a cluttered table writing about sweets. Incidentally, you do find out just how he got the idea for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
I thought it was amazing to get a glimpse into the life of Roald Dahl before he became The Roald Dahl. Sometimes, looking too deep into the past and personality of a celebrity or writer makes you realize that they’re not as wonderful as you thought them to be. It’s the exact opposite for Roald Dahl. Roald was–in a word–freaking awesome. Okay, that’s two words but he deserves them! His zest for adventure, his unswerving love for his family, his one-too-many injuries, and his utterly fascinating stint in Africa tumble all together to give you a side of Roald Dahl that is as unforgettable as his books.