Roald Dahl is a British author with Norwegian parents, Harald and Sofie Magdalena Dahl. He was born in Wales in 1916, and died in 1990.
Roald Dahl described his life in two books, “Boy” and “Going Solo”. The former deals with his childhood, the second with his life after school. In this book review I’m concentrating on his childhood in the book “Boy”.
Dahl wont call “Boy” an autobiography because that is something he associate with a book full of all sorts of details about the author’s life. And when he wrote “Boy” he just had many memories from his childhood that he couldn’t forget, and decided to write them down.
“Boy” is about Roald Dahl`s life from the day he was born and until the day the war broke out in 1939, when he was twenty-three years old.
Roald Dahl was born in Llandaff in South Wales to Norwegian parents. He had four sisters (one of them died at the age of seven), and he had one brother. His father died when Roald was four years old, so he didn’t get to know him very well. Therefor he had a very good relationship to his mother.
The family used to spend the summer holidays on a little Norwegian island, swimming, fishing and going by boat.
When Roald was seven years old he started at Llandaff Cathedral School. And two years later, when he was nine his mother sent him to a boarding school in England called St Peter’s. He wrote home to his mother every week, but all the letters were controlled by the Headmaster, so they couldn’t write anything horrid about his school.
His main schooling was at Repton , a famous Public School in England, where he started when he was thirteen.
Through the book he tells a lot about the regulations and the school systems at the different schools he went to, and how much he disliked it. Especially how they could get beaten for small mistakes like leaving a football sock on the floor, for burning the prefect’s toast at teatime or for forgetting to change into houseshoes at six o’clock.
When Roald was eighteen he turned down his mother’s offer of going to Oxford or Cambridge. Instead he joined the Eastern Staff of the Shell Company. And when he was twenty years old, Shell sent him to East Africa where he remained until the world war two broke out in 1939. How is life become after this, you can read in the book “Going Solo”.
Roald Dahl is the main character him self in this book. He is a boy who had a very hard adolescence. He had to deal with much serious tragic illness in his family, and he had to experienced a tough treatment by a lot of headmasters and masters on the different schools. But in spite of this he managed to keep a wonderful perspective on his life. This proves that he is a strong human being, who don’t give up when he face adversity.
Roald doesn’t only write about himself, he writes a lot about the persons around him. Especially his parents. The first chapter in the book is called “Papa and Mama”. His parents meant a lot to him, and he was very proud of them.
His father, Harald Dahl, came from a small town near Oslo called Sarpsborg. He had to amputate his arm because a drunken doctor mistook his fractured elbow for a dislocated shoulder. But in spite of his handicap, Harald managed to become a prosperous businessman.
Roald Dahl admired his mother, Sofie Dahl, because she took care of six children all by her self after her husband died. A lot of people would have travelled back to their home country where they had family, but Sofie stayed in Wales, and fulfilled her husbands wish, that his children went to school in England. She was “alone” in a foreign country, and she managed this very well.
The Headmasters we gets to know in the book demands discipline, and if you don’t do exactly as they recommends you to do, you will get punished. These strict rules makes the students insecure, and their performance at school gets considerable debilitated.
The theme in this book is childhood. When you read this book, you understand how important your childhood is for how the rest of your life will become. How you experienced your life as a child, creates an important part of your personality as a grownup. Therefor it is an important message to the adults to raise their children in a proper way, so that they can become decent human beings.
I would recommend this book to grownups and children. It is a lot of humours moments in this book that will create a smile in every face that reads it. But there are also moments that is unpleasant, but the greatest is that it is all true. This book is worth reading!