Sunday 10 December 2023

Roald Dahl: Teller of the Unexpected by Matthew Dennison

Roald Dahl: Teller of the UnexpectedRoald Dahl: Teller of the Unexpected by Matthew Dennison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 10 days, in and out

Pages - 272

Publisher -

Source - Review copy

Blurb from Goodreads

“An elegant new biography. In Dennison’s telling, Dahl’s contradictions are beautifully illustrated. I think [Dahl] would have liked Dennison’s writing style, lush but clipped, with such phrases as ‘the ubiquity of caprice’ and ‘buoyant with slang,’ full of a reader’s zest.” -- Alexandra Jacobs, The New York Times Book Review
'Riveting, and immaculately written' Sunday Telegraph
'A superb psychological study of a literary genius' Business Post
'A rounded picture... and gets to Dahl's flawed, human core' Country Life
'Crisply done and well-judged' TLS Roald Dahl was one of the world's greatest storytellers. He conceived his vocation as one as intrepid as that of any explorer and, in his writing for children, he was able to tap into a child's viewpoint throughout his life. He crafted tales that were exotic in scenario, frequently invested with a moral, and filled with vibrant characters that endure in public imagination to the present day. In this brand-new biogrpahy, Matthew Dennison re-evaluates the received narrative surrounding Dahl – that of school sporting hero, daredevil pilot, and wartime spy-turned-author – and examines surviving primary resources as well as Dahl's extensive literary output to tell the story of a man who identified as a rule-breaker, an iconoclast and a romantic, both insider and outsider, hero and child's friend.

My Review

So we all know who Roald Dahl is and have read at least some of his books and even the movies that followed. Personally I knew very little about him, I knew he had lost a child but that was really about it for me. This book was nothing short of eye opening, I had no idea just now much history he had and what a busy "private" life he had.

We hear about Dahl's beginnings, his service for his country, the ups and downs of writing and how he managed to score his big contracts and how his books became the success they were. The shocks for me was how much of a "romantic" life he had before he was married.

He experienced quite a bit of loss and sadness/heartache which I hadn't been aware of, again I didn't know much but even chatting to friends they were unawares also. Reading about his published works was also an education as I actually only knew of a few of the books (some I was exposed to as a child) and of course the ones that made it to movies.

Whilst the book/content was interesting I found the writing hard going at times and it was because the author had a habit of injecting fancy words when they weren't required. I also think I may well not have noticed but for the fact he spoke about Dahl saying you shouldn't use big words when small/simple ones will do, that isn't a verbatim quote but the jist. Then after that so many words appeared I would need to Google and was like well why would you just say parent/mother/father or whatever it was. I even read a few sentences out to a mixed crowd and they were like why wouldn't you just say XYZ. So that took you out of it a little and lead to me putting the book down a fair few times. So that being said that was off putting yet there is no denying the quality of time/research put into the book and educating on so much of Dahl's life we may well be unaware of, 3/5 for me this time.

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