by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake, Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2008 hardcover – autobiography
This is the 25th anniversary edition of Dahl’s book Boy, updated and with additional material. I read some Dahl when I was young, notably Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Later I added James and the Giant Peach to the list and have read a few other things, but by no means all of his written output. I’ve enjoyed what I read, as I recall – it’s been quite a while – and after reading a review of this on Stainless Steel Droppings, I thought I’d give it a try. Like Carl, the edition I borrowed from the library is this one, the 25th Anniversary edition, which as noted above has added material to the original Boy, published in 1984, including photographs and asides by the author. It also features many wonderful illustrations by Dahl-illustrator Quentin Blake. More About Boy is Dahl’s autobiography from birth up until the time he got his first job post-graduation. This book is written in a way that will appeal to younger readers but will be enjoyable, if light, fare for the adult reader as well, and adults may better understand some of the difficult, sometimes disturbing scenes in the book. These are mostly the recounting of events occurring while Dahl was in English Prep school and then in Public school. The practices of the day are not allowed and would not be tolerated now, but caning and other severe punishments were common then. If you have ever sent the film Tom Brown’s Schooldays (I recommend the 1940 version with Sir Cedric Hardwick, available on DVD) you will have some idea of such practices. Much of the book is taken up with these stories from boarding school, though also presented, much more happily, are family vacations and other events. The sequel to this Book is Flying Solo, which covers the early manhood of Dahl, especially his years in East Africa and during the Second World War. If you have ever read any of Dahl’s stories and would like to know a little more about him, this may be of interest.