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by Roald Dahl
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Oct 4th 2002
Originally released in 1984, Roald Dahls memoir Boy
has been newly recorded as an unabridged audiobook read by the
distinguished British actor Derek Jacobi.
Dahl recounts stories about his family and more from his youth, of his
life at home and at school. His father
died when Dahl was young, and the family moved from Norway to Wales. When he was seven years old, he started at Llandaff
Cathedral School. But he did not stay
for long, because his mother removed him from the school after Dahl received a severe
beating from the headmaster for a prank he thought up, which involved putting a
dead mouse in a sweet (candy) jar at a sweet shop on the way to school. He moved on St. Peters prep school in England,
where he was a boarder which is to say that he lived there the whole
time. He became very homesick, and
wrote home to his mother every week. His
mothers wisdom in taking him out of his first school is thrown in doubt as he
tells of the violence he suffered from teachers beatings at his new school. The school, reminiscent of The Austere
Academy of Lemony Snicket, is populated by adults who seem to delight
in the suffering of children. Dahls
life did not get much easier when, at the age of thirteen, he moved on to Repton,
a prestigious school. Here he, like all
other boys, had to work as a fag for the older boys, which means that he had
to both do menial chores for older boys and also suffer from their hazing
rituals. All this experience helps to
explain the many horrible adults featured in his stories for children. One of Dahls main consolations was the
pleasure he took in sports, at which he excelled.
Many of Dahls stories of his youth are reminiscent
of his tales for children, and Jacobi reads them wonderfully, bringing the
different characters to life and ensuring that Dahl is a sympathetic
narrator. Dahl manages to show the
reader the perspective of himself as a boy, both in his delight in simple
pleasures such as the variety of sweets in the sweet shop, and in his horror at
the cruelty of some of his teachers.
The book is a fine example of Dahls vigorous writing. It shows how childhood experiences can leave
a lasting mark on the rest of a persons life, but it is also a testament to
the resiliency of children.
web page with RealAudio excerpt
Offical Roald Dahl website
© 2002 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College,
Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main
research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested
in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is
keen to help foster communication between philosophers, mental health
professionals, and the general public.