Roald Dahl was a British author, but he also had deep roots in Norway since both his parents were Norwegian. He was born in Llandaff, September 13th, 1916. “Boy” is a book which tells about an important part of Roalds life, his childhood. It is set in France, England, Wales and Norway from the time when his father, Harald Dahl, had to amputate an arm because a drunken doctor mistook his fractured elbow for a dislocated shoulder, back in 1877. Until him, Roald Dahl joins RAF as a fighter pilot in 1939.
Roald was very proud of his parents and the whole first chapter is about them, and how his father, Harald Dahl, went from a middle-class boy with high ambitions to a successful businessman in Cardiff. He started out in Sarpsborg; from here he went to France with his brother Oscar where they split to seek independent success. Harald met a man called Aadnesen in France and together they went to Cardiff to start a ship broking firm. Even though they started out with nothing but a small office at the docks business went well and after a few years he could afford to buy a big house. His wife, Marie, whom he had met in Paris before he went to Cardiff, bore him two children, but tragically died after giving birth to the second one.
This left Harald rather lonely and he decided that his children had to have a stepmother. To find another wife he travelled back to Norway and after a short period of time he met a woman named Sophie Magdalena Hesselberg, to whom he proposed within a week. During the next six years after their marriage Sophie bore him four children, one of them Roald. In the year 1920 Roalds sister Astri died of appendicitis, which at the time was a very deadly disease. She was Haralds favourite among the children and when she died he became very depressed and did not even fight the pneumonia which hit him a month later. He died at the age of 57, this left Roalds mother, Sophie, alone in a strange country, pregnant, with five children, two of which was not even hers! Harald had always told her he wanted his children to go to English schools, which according to him was the best in the world. Because of Sofies courage and loyalty to her husband she did not move back to Norway, but sold the big house they had and moved to a smaller house in Llandaff with the six children. When one hears of this it is very understandable why Roald admired his parents so much.
Roalds first childhood memories are from when he was six years old and went to a kindergarten named Cumberland Lodge. The thing he remembers from this time is the trip to and from school on his tricycle, he found it extremely exciting and it is the only memory he clearly remembers from this time.
From the age of 7 until he was 9 Roald went to Llandaff Cathedral School. It was during these years that the great Mouse Plot was to take place. Not to far from the school there was a sweet-shop; it was owned by “a cruel old hag” as Roald put it, which was called Mrs. Pratchett. One day Roald and his friends found a dead mouse in their secret treasury, which was under some floorboards at the school. When Roald saw the mouse he at once came up with a prank to play on Mrs. Pratchett. They were to put the dead mouse in one of the big candy jars in the sweet-shop. The plan was executed perfectly, and the next day when the boys passed the sweet-shop and found a notice on the door which said it was closed. This made the boys very nervous since the sweet-shop never was closed, not even on Sundays. When they looked in the window they saw the big candy jar lying on the floor, its contents spread out over the floor. Roald’s heart stopped for a long second when he heard that she might have had a heart attack and died.
When they finally reached the school, all the children were told to line up in the schoolyard and wait. Then the boys saw, to their relief and horror, Mrs. Pratchett, who was walking around inspecting the ranks of students. When she reached the rank they were in she pointed them all out and they were lead into the headmaster’s office. Here they were to discover that the punishment of their prank was caning. A thing Roald was to experience many times in his lifetime. When Sophie heard of what had happened, she at once rushed to the school and yelled at the headmaster. The headmaster said that if she didn’t care about their methods she would just have to take her son to another school. And so it was to be that when Roald finished the school year it was time for him to go to boarding school.
He started St. Peters when he was 9 years old. I think it really must have been quite frightening to leave behind all the familiar things at home already at such a young age. He often had homesickness and one time even faked appendicitis to get home. When he was twelve he went to a famous public school named Repton. At Repton there were many, for us at least, strange rules. The prefects, called boazers, were allowed to order around the juniors and punish them if they did not obey. This caused Roald to have quite a lot of unpleasant experiences during this time; one of them had to sit on the toilets to heat the seats for the boazers. Roald proved to be a good sportsman at this time; he actually became so good at Eton-fives that he was awarded the title “Captain of Fives”. During his years at Repton Roald also got quite interested in photographs, and he even won several prizes for his works.
In the end of his last year at Repton he decided that instead of going off to a university he wanted to find a job. And surely enough when the school finished he got a job with Shell in July 1934, he had always wished to go to far away lands and this job got him sent to South Africa, which was very much to his liking. Here he stayed until World War 2 broke out and he joined RAF as a fighter pilot.
When I first started this book I expected to find a quite ordinary biography, this was not to be the case. Already from the first chapter it was a lot of humorous moments, and this showed itself to be a biography quite out of the ordinary. The perspective is often childlike, which causes many of the scenes in the book to be quite exhilarating. Other times the perspective is more thoughtful and discursive, as with the cane beatings he became quite familiar with.
I must say I enjoyed this book a lot and will gladly recommend it to others.