It goes beyond his stories. Or perhaps, more accurately, it lies deeply entwined in his stories ... that laconic yet intense persona, packed with mischief and glee but complemented by the merest sinister twist.
In Boy, Dahl's memoir of his early childhood ('Boy' was what his mother called him and was the moniker he always used to sign his letters home), we learn about the authors earliest years in Wales.
Born to Norwegian parents, Dahl's father died when the lad was just three years old. Raised by his resourceful, organised mother, Dahl enjoyed a vibrant childhood, with a house full of sisters and trips back to Norway to visit his grandparents--times he recalls with much fondness.
It was when Dahl entered school that the majority of his memories come to the fore in Boy, with particular focus on English public schools - St Peter's and Repton - which proved eventful, entertaining and oftentimes horrific times in the teenager's life.
Dahl excelled in sport and also enjoyed photography and literature, but it wasn't until adult life that he began to write professionally.
Boy is a riveting, beautifully-written, charming book--even if quite concise. The stories take us through to Dahl's first working role with the Shell Petroleum Company before joining the Royal Airforce in 1939. Further tales of his wartime escapades can be enjoyed in the sequel: More About Boy.
This book is a fine introduction for older readers making the transition from Dahl's junior and middle fiction, to adult works. Due to the sometimes graphic nature of the book (think: severe corporal punishment administered in schools), I would recommend this book for children aged 11 or older (or at parental discretion).
There are many incarnations of this book, with various covers to choose from, some with iconic illustrations by Quentin Blake.
Author: Roald Dahl
Publisher: Penguin, $19.95 RRP
Publication Date: 27 October 2011
For ages: 11+
Type: Memoir, Non-Fiction