It’s a cliché, but when I was little my favourite author, by a country mile, was Roald Dahl. I’m pretty sure I’ve read all of his kids books. Therefore when I heard that a collection of letters he wrote to his mother was being released as a book I knew that it had to be next on my to-read list.
Now I’ve got to admit, I was a little bit gutted when I discovered that the whole book wasn’t just letters that he wrote to his mum during his childhood and adolescence, which I had assumed from the title. It actually also features letters that he wrote to her throughout the rest of his adult life. Call me a big kid but I’m just not as interested in stories that are about adults. However, I ended up enjoying the letters from grown-up Roald almost as much as those from little-lad Roald.
Apparently the letters he wrote to his mum whilst in boarding school had to be vetted by the teachers which is sad and heartwarming and poignant because he wasn’t able to write about all of his negative experiences – the teachers wouldn’t have allowed it. But you also get the feeling that Roald would have wanted to protect his mother from the nasty side of boarding school. And although his time at school was probably extremely unpleasant at times, you can’t help but notice where Roald found inspiration for some of his books. You see the mention of a fox hunt, elaborate concoctions and a salamander … if it hadn’t been for these experiences then we probably wouldn’t have been treated to the likes of Fantastic Mr Fox, George’s Marvellous Medicine and Matilda.
Following on from school, the book takes you through the next stages of his fascinating life. We see the letters he wrote from colonial Africa and those that he wrote whilst training to be – and then flying as – a fighter pilot in the Second World War.
The book also made me realise that not only was Roald Dahl a blimming brilliant author, he was also an inventor. When his four month old son was seriously injured after being hit by a car, Roald helped to develop a valve that drained excess fluid from the brain. Who knew.
One of the best things about reading his letters was the fact that they are peppered with his unique Dahl-esque witticisms. His humour, his warmth, and his lovely way with words really comes through. The one criticism I would have – and it’s not really a criticism – is that I felt that the book was just a tad one sided – I would have loved to read some of his mother’s letters. But then what would they have called it?
As well as being an entertaining read, Love From Boy also made me think about the dying art of letter writing. Will the next generation of autobiographies be collections of text messages and emails?!
What did you make of Love From Boy? Did you get any good books for Christmas?