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Roald Dahl: A Biography

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The first full-length biography of the successful and controversial author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. Introduction by the Author; Index; photographs.


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The first full-length biography of the successful and controversial author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. Introduction by the Author; Index; photographs.

30 review for Roald Dahl: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    The joy of undertaking this two month stint of biographies is that I am able to learn a great deal about many people across the vast expanse of history. One other advantage is that I am able to peel back the onion of knowledge as it relates to anyone and discover just how little I knew beforehand. Roald Dahl is one such person, though I went into this book feeling I had a handle on his early life, having read both short pieces the man wrote about himself. Jonathan Treglown chose to delve deeper The joy of undertaking this two month stint of biographies is that I am able to learn a great deal about many people across the vast expanse of history. One other advantage is that I am able to peel back the onion of knowledge as it relates to anyone and discover just how little I knew beforehand. Roald Dahl is one such person, though I went into this book feeling I had a handle on his early life, having read both short pieces the man wrote about himself. Jonathan Treglown chose to delve deeper into the life of a man best known for his scores of children's stories, many of whom played a significant role in my early years. Treglown is first to acknowledged that there was a significant gap in Dahl's life story after the publication of both BOY and GOING SOLO in the early 1980s. However, Dahl's death and some argument with publishers left the majority of the man's life without a substantial biography all his own. Treglown solves that problem with his wonderful attention to detail and thorough analysis. The curious reader will find themselves surrounded with new information not gleaned from reading any of Dahl's work for children or the aforementioned mini-autobiographies. I am left with a significantly different image of the man and his life now, a mixed bag of emotions indeed. In early chapters of the biography, Treglown recounts Dahl's young years in Wales and how he grew up without a father figure for a significant portion of his life. While Boy laid the groundwork for much of what the reader knows about Dahl (including his adventurous childhood and experiences at boarding school), Treglown explains that Dahl chose to add some selective memory to his hyperbole in recounting those years. Dahl admits that he was fully aware of this and had little desire to rectify the discrepancies after publication, which might add to his fanciful nature and ability to spin tales to entertain readers. A brief stint with the RAF during the Second World War left Dahl with many memories and some early ideas for writing projects. However, injuries kept him out of the cockpit and he was sent to Washington, where he served in the British Embassy. Many have wondered about Dahl's time in Washington, though Treglown offers little. There was one vignette about how Dahl discovered documentation of the American plan to takeover all civilian airlines after the war, monopolising the industry for their own benefit. Treglown also mentions that Dahl used his time in America to hone his skills with females, bragging of his conquests while dodging those who asserted any amorous intentions. Without a formal education after boarding school, Dahl needed a means of making money, especially after the end of wartime aggression and thought that he might be able to tap into his creative storytelling abilities. Armed with a number of ideas and few people interested in his war-flavoured work (nuclear weapons, communism, Hitler), Dahl was put in touch with Walt Disney, who tried to create some films related to one of his few popular war stories that had been published. This project turned out to be less effective than either had hoped, the beginning of a string of failures with which Dahl would face over the next number of years. Dahl continued to work with the Knopf Publishing House, who remained curious about his work, though found it hard to find a market for his work. Treglown admits that Dahl was not committed to any publisher and would turn to whomever might have an interest in his work. Dahl enjoyed writing the more macabre story and did not tone down either language or content, as Treglown offers numerous examples of stories related to murder, rape, and extreme gore, all of which left many publishers less than eager to sign the author. In a twist of fate, Dahl was introduced to Hollywood actress Patricia Neal and the two soon gravitated to one another. Many felt that Dahl's name-dropping was annoying and out of sync with Neal's personality, but she began mirroring his ways and soured her relationship with many others. The two quickly married and became one of the oddest couples amongst their friends; Dahl would openly berate her and mock her southern roots while Neal passively allowed him to do so. It was only after Neal bore Dahl his first child that things became at least somewhat tolerable. While Dahl remained aloof and sought to publish his work, the family lived off Neal's roles and accompanying paycheques. After their brood grew even more, Dahl began to exemplify a strong paternal instinct, something that Neal admitted openly to anyone who would listen. It was at this time that Dahl began concocting some stories to entertain his children. First, one about a young boy named James and his adventures riding on a giant peach, and eventually another about a young Charlie Bucket who won the chance to tour inside the town's chocolate factory. Dahl quickly found publishers for these two stories in America, though Britain was slow to publish. Of interest to the reader, the publication of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory faced a great deal of pushback, specifically due to Dahl's depiction of the Oompa-Loompas. Their 'pygmy from the depths of Africa' backstory proved highly problematic in a civil rights era America, though some massaging of the text eventually made it more palatable. Dahl still had little interest in gearing stories for children, though did agree to pen a few when approached by publishers for a series of books they had in mind. Playboy remained his most reliable source of income, publishing a number of his stories and paying decently. However, Dahl faced two significant personal tragedies that impeding his writing abilities and pulled his coping abilities to their limits. His marriage to Neal remained strained and she continued to be the primary provider, which surely irked the author. Their travel to shoot her films kept Dahl and his children on the move, though he tried to lay down some roots in both New York and rural England. And yet, he had still yet to find his niche for which he would eventually become so well known. Dahl did find himself expanding his horizons and ended up tackling screenplay writing, one of his own Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (title changed to remove vernacular mention of 'Charlies' and the racial implications) and then some of the James Bond saga, none of which were excitedly received. This earned him some decent financial payout, but nothing that could have let him retire. The Dahl-Neal relationship continued to fray, as Dahl found companionship with a much younger woman, Felicity Crosland. He wrote to Neal and promised that there was no sexual component to it, though Neal speculates that this might not have totally been the case. Dahl's children were getting older and could see the cracks in their parents union, some of whom chose to act out and found their antics splashed across the tabloids. Dahl was, by now, beginning to find him momentum and had published Danny the Champion of the World, with moderate success. Treglown uses some of the latter chapters in the book to explore Dahl's eventual connection to Quentin Blake, illustrator extraordinaire whose work is likely best known to many readers who have read Dahl's work since the early 1980s. Additionally, the reader will find discussion of early manuscripts and story ideas of his most popular works (The BFG, The Witches, and Matilda) highly amusing, especially since Dahl's original plots took a backseat when strong editors got their hands on the work. Except for a few instances, Dahl's work was heavily rewritten, showing that while he was a master, his preeminence did not give him a pass when the red pen emerged. There was also a strong concern that Dahl was an admitted anti-Semite, something he never denied, though he did try to spin it as having issue with the Israelis during their battles in the early 1980s. He did go so far as to publicly draw parallels between Israeli PM Menachem Begin and HItler, which left many ill at ease. However, his agent and publishers continued to push back against booksellers who brought this up by citing that the stories themselves were not racially or culturally abhorrent, even if the author espoused his own set of beliefs. By his waning years, Dahl tired of criticism and interactions with the lowly reading public, which Treglown exemplifies in narrative full of off-colour comments made by the author. However, Dahl was sure to have much of his estate go towards helping the sickest of children and those who would be able to enjoy his work, in hopes that his stories could offer a dose of marvellous literary medicine. In death, Dahl was remembered for his stories and the wonder that they brought as new readers discovered them. However, his life was anything but a walk through the park or along the English seaside. Treglown has surely taken on a significant and controversial task in trying to paint a complete picture of Roald Dahl. The man whose image is inedibly etched into the minds of millions (children and parents alike) is surely not the one that reality has to offer. By presenting Dahl in such a frank manner, the reader is able to see another side of the man. Offering detail where it is needed and skimming over other areas, Treglown weaves together a powerful piece that does dispel Dahl's "magical Willy Wonka" nature and offers, perhaps, the crueller side seen by many of the villains that end up slain in his books. Treglown offers another interesting aspect in the narrative that is worth mention; he contrasts many of Dahl's life experiences with children's stories he would eventually create. For example, Dahl's lack of a father figure (many of his stories only deal with a child and one parent or an orphan), boarding school cruelty (many stories have evil characters, both children and adults), and his Scandinavian lineage (there is a significant amount of witch, goblin, and other fairy mention in his stories). The reader is given this insight throughout the narrative and left to find other crumbs for themselves. Paced with decent sized chapters that provide enough for the reader to digest, Treglown has succeeded in offering the 'other side' to this author who sought greatness himself, rather than bask solely in the reactions of his fans. A should read by Dahl fans to balance out their previous sentiments. Kudos, Mr. Treglown for keeping the story flowing and not candy-coating the narrative (pun intended). I have a much better view of the man and his development as an author, as well as some of the lesser known aspects. Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/

  2. 4 out of 5

    "Avonna

    I always imagine an author of juvenile literature sitting around with a bunch of children surrounding him or her enthralled with their story and the storyteller. At times, I suppose Roald Dahl was like that with his children, but it was surprising to learn what he was like at other times. Roald Dahl: A Biography by Jeremy Treglown takes you from birth to death of the famous author in a read that was interesting and surprising, but sometimes a little heavy with straight factual information. Treglo I always imagine an author of juvenile literature sitting around with a bunch of children surrounding him or her enthralled with their story and the storyteller. At times, I suppose Roald Dahl was like that with his children, but it was surprising to learn what he was like at other times. Roald Dahl: A Biography by Jeremy Treglown takes you from birth to death of the famous author in a read that was interesting and surprising, but sometimes a little heavy with straight factual information. Treglown shows all sides of the author. He was a man that you either loved or hated. He could be generous and caring or cruel and drop you like a rock. His attitude and treatment was the same whether he was dealing with family or friends. All his life he had crushing blows that he triumphed over, but not always in ways that would be looked at as acceptable. I only know his juvenile works from reading them to my son and was very surprised by the amount of adult work he has had published. His best known works were also all written after the age of 40. Another surprising fact was that he wrote as much for Playboy as he did for the New Yorker. I don’t know that I would have liked the man, but he left some wonderful stories and a foundation that helps people even today. Thank you to Open Road Integrated Media and Net Galley for gifting me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lynley

    This was an enjoyable read -- probably because it confirmed everything I'd already surmised about Roald Dahl the man, after recently revisiting a few of his nastier works with my own 8 year old daughter. Roald Dahl was an insufferable man. I'm so glad I never met him, even though I would love to have met him as a huge child fan of the 80s. I read all of his novels many times. In fact, I read nothing but Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton during my most impressionable primary school years, and although I This was an enjoyable read -- probably because it confirmed everything I'd already surmised about Roald Dahl the man, after recently revisiting a few of his nastier works with my own 8 year old daughter. Roald Dahl was an insufferable man. I'm so glad I never met him, even though I would love to have met him as a huge child fan of the 80s. I read all of his novels many times. In fact, I read nothing but Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton during my most impressionable primary school years, and although I'm generally a fan of 'reading, any reading', I do sometimes wonder if I'd be a nicer person if I hadn't been inhaling Roald Dahl on repeat. To give an example, I recently came across a piece of creative writing I did when I was about eleven years old. It was a very Dahl-esque piece, but only in the worst way -- it was a character sketch of a grotesquely fat woman whose very ugliness was indicative of her moral deficiencies. When I read it as an adult I was pretty horrified at my fat phobia. (My classroom teacher had praised it as an excellent example of a character sketch.) I can't blame Dahl entirely for that -- we live in a culture which judges women in particular for their looks -- but I do blame Dahl. I do. That man was definitely a phenomenon, and he had a heavy influence on child culture. Have I grown crotchety as a 'middle-aged female librarian type' (the type Dahl abhorred -- though I'm not a librarian)? Or have I simply grown... nicer? Is it possible to write 'nice' books for kids which are also best sellers? I have no time for the view that children fail to pick nasty messages up from books. Of course they do. Children pick up everything. That's why books are so damn important. Four characters interested me as much as Dahl himself did: 1. Stephen Roxburgh. Few people would recognise this guy's name. But reading the chapters on the development of Dahl's most successful chapter books in the eighties, it's clear (and comforting to those who write for children) to learn just how much better Roxburgh made Dahl's books as his young, enthusiastic and pedantic editor. This guy worked magic. Dahl's name gets on the cover, but The Witches and Matilda were vastly different stories before Roxburgh got his hands on them. (Naturally, Dahl ended up falling out with the guy.) It was fascinating to read how shit the stories were when Dahl dashed them off. (He also got shitty when required to change Matilda and didn't end up making all the recommended changes. Dahl hated being told what to do.) 2. Patricia Neal. The actress. Dahl's first wife and mother of his children. The woman who didn't seem to take Dahl's sexist shit. I'm now left wanting to know more about her. What's it like to be a Hollywood beauty and then suddenly fall from that position in your thirties? A telling bit of 20th century sexism: After Neal had her big stroke and was unable to work, the movie industry offered Dahl the job of writing the script for a Bond movie. Dahl looked down on movie writing and didn't even want it, but they paid Dahl more for the script than Neal had ever been paid for any of her actressing. (And yes, 'actressing' is the operative word here.) I had never even realised that Dahl had been married to Patricia Neal even though I'm a longtime fan of the movie 'Hud', in which Neal shines. 3. Tessa Dahl. Treglown is particularly hard on Tessa. He calls her flighty and drug addicted and suggests her life is a complete mess, yet the readers are left unable to make our own minds up about Tessa as a person because apart from the biographer's brief snide comments, we are told nothing about her. 4. Rosemary Fawcett. Now here's a name I bet you've never heard of. My heart just breaks for Rosemary Fawcett. If you own a copy of Dirty Beasts, you probably have a version illustrated by Quentin Blake. But because Quentin Blake was already an established illustrator in the 1980s, and because Dahl required an extraordinarily high royalty (so the rightwing bastard could avoid paying tax on it in Switzerland), the publishers decided to go with a young woman, new to the field. (Treglown even notes a particularly sexist comment made about her -- innuendo about 'trying her out' -- not even clever.) I think 'woman' is the operative phrase. They must have paid her in peanuts so they could pay Dahl what he ordered. Have a look for Rosemary Fawcett's illustrations for Dirty Beast on the Internet, because you can't buy the book now. You'll see they're fantastic. They are just as grotesque and scary as the rhymes themselves. Well, Dahl fucking hated them. He said so, too, and offered to buy all the copies up himself and incinerate them. (He didn't, because he was all talk.) If you do look up Rosemary Fawcett on the Internet, you'll be disappointed to see she never produced another book. For anyone. Or if she did, it was nothing lasting. Roald Dahl, rather richly, accused Fawcett of creating illustrations that were too grotesque, and so her work was abolished after the first print run and the publisher reluctantly realised they would have to pay Quentin Blake to illustrate Dirty Beasts just as he'd illustrated Revolting Rhymes. That's what the public wanted. The truth is, Dahl requires a comic, kind-hearted soul to illustrate for him. His words are too scary otherwise. But I really do feel for that Rosemary Fawcett. Imagine that. You're just starting out as a young illustrator and you get a great gig -- illustrating for the great and well-established, fabulously rich, best-selling Roald Dahl! You spend six months on your illustrations, get paid virtually nothing, and the Great Dahl Himself hates them. Rosemary Fawcett's career was halted through no fault of her own. The commissioning editor made the mistake. It was the editor who paired Dahl's macabre work with equally macabre illustrations, and no one could have predicted this would tip the public over the edge. I am very sad that Rosemary Fawcett didn't find any more work, because her wonderfully grotesque illustrations would very well suit the work of a milder writer. I wouldn't recommend this biography to lovers of Roald Dahl's work. I don't think I'll be able to re-read any more of his books with the same sense of wonder and admiration. I'd already lost it though, I think. If you are a huge Roald Dahl fan, there are a number of adulating biographies of him out there, one of which I read as a kid. The one where we imagine an affable old soldier with a crooked nose scribbling in a shed out the back, all the while alternating his smoking for chocolate bars. And those bits are technically true. This biography fills in the adult blanks -- his serial adultery, his anti-semitism, his patriarchal attitude towards the women in his life (reminiscent of Henry the Eighth, disturbingly), his unpleasantness to everyone who made his work better, and the fact that those pencils he wrote with in his shed had to be of a certain type, and he sent a junior publishing pro on a wild goose chase to try and find him some exactly the same, as nothing but a power trip. After reading some of his short stories for adults I have always wondered, too, if Roald Dahl was a misogynist. I think after reading this I'll revise it upwards -- Treglown is no doubt right -- Roald Dahl was in fact a misanthropist. No doubt also on the sociopathic spectrum, or perhaps just narcissistic. Almost definitely dyslexic, on a different note. It's not like he didn't have his good points. He donated quite a bit of money to the dyslexic foundation in his later years. And it's pronounced Roo-ahl. If only I can remember that.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joe Young

    All writers are liars; we do it openly, shamelessly and with the serious intent of manipulating our reader’s emotions. We make you laugh, we make you cry, and we make you shudder or leave the lights on when you go to bed. The majority of us keep the bullshit on the page, but there are some who apply the same inventiveness and manipulation to our real lives, with varying success but always with consequences. ​ Roald Dahl unleashed upon the world a somewhat acute horror, I am not talking ‘The Witche All writers are liars; we do it openly, shamelessly and with the serious intent of manipulating our reader’s emotions. We make you laugh, we make you cry, and we make you shudder or leave the lights on when you go to bed. The majority of us keep the bullshit on the page, but there are some who apply the same inventiveness and manipulation to our real lives, with varying success but always with consequences. ​ Roald Dahl unleashed upon the world a somewhat acute horror, I am not talking ‘The Witches’ here or indeed ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ (with the likes of ‘William and Mary’ and ‘Skin’), or indeed ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, which has all kinds of creepy undertones and a rather high mortality rate for the children in the book. The acute horror I am referring to is Roald’s own personal history, which he deftly manipulated over decades, toying with people in positions of power and presenting a fake persona Walter Mitty would have been proud of. This is the same horror tempered with an understanding of what it is like to be a child living with the social awareness that comes with isolation. It is the horror of seeing the true nature of people as an outsider. It is the horror of never growing up and addressing adult responsibility and culpability. Roald Dahl: A biography, offers a terrific insight into the mind of a man whose career and personal life was a creative tour de force. There are many biographies of Dahl, a vast amount of them focusing more on his prolific production of children’s books than on the life of a writer far more intricate and interesting than much of his output. Treglown’s biography is perhaps the most honest as he pulls apart his subject matter with a forensic eye for detail. Unlike most biographers, Treglown leaves his personal bias to one side as his meticulous research gathered from those closest to Dahl provides the reader with an honest account of the somewhat troubled genius. Beginning with his family’s migration from Norway and his early days in Wales, following him through decades of maniacal machinations, as Dahl pursued and successfully gained power and wealth, this is an exacting and exhaustive account of his life. There is no ‘safe gain’ in this biography, it’s not an easy read as it isn’t as much meant for entertainment as for instruction, so don’t expect a rip-roaring, fast-paced expose, think of it more as a textbook examining the aberrant psychology of a celebrity author. One who did not care whom he trampled on as long as he got what he wanted. The extra knowledge you can acquire through reading this comes at a price as it shatters the illusions of the famous ‘children’s book author’ as a kind old soul ready to eagerly dispense relatively innocent tales and Werther’s Originals in equal doses. It would be much fairer to assume that this grandfatherly figure would be more likely to dole out poisoned candies with the nightmares he offers to the unwary. It is a biography that could quite easily wipe away any previous conceptions or indeed fondness you may have toward Roald Dahl. I became aware of facets of Roald Dahl at three different times in my life, firstly there was Roald Dahl the name on the cover of James and the Giant Peach (among other books of course). His name was unusual yet nothing of any great note to a young brain when I was reading my way through the library in Kindergarten. I loved the stories but had no real concept of the creator of them. The secondary awareness came a decade later with the 1979 TV series ‘Tales of the Unexpected’. Each episode was hosted by a somewhat seedy-looking old guy sitting cozily by the fire, who took great delight in telling us some often seemingly unrelated ‘Rowley Birkin-esque’ anecdote before the eagerly awaited creepy story unfolded. It wasn’t until much later in life that I found out who the old guy was and what he wrote. I wasn’t exactly gobsmacked at the inventive duality of writing much-loved children’s books and moderately chilling short stories, but it did make me take better notice of him, which leads into the third revelation, which is his biography. This is where all bets are off. It’s not easy to recommend any book, especially a biography, without giving away spoilers, as let’s face it, you’re making an investment, so you want to know if what you are going to get is worth the time to read it and the money to own it. I’d say in both cases this is very much worth the investment. I read it some time ago, and, albeit in an abstract way, I learned a lot from it. Having revisited it for this article it’s revived a part of me I’d left dormant, I am not sure how I feel about that, it is akin to meeting an old friend after decades apart when you know full well that he was a bad influence. There’ so much more to Roald Dahl, a lot of which is thoroughly unpleasant, enough so that the book can easily leave one with the mental equivalent of a ‘foul taste in the mouth’. Reading through the revelations from Treglown’s research we are given a crystallization of a youth in which although Roald lived in relative luxury, things were far from perfect as tragedies were harsh and plentiful. His formative years do explain a lot of how Roald became the man he was, as well as many of the backgrounds and characters in his stories with tales such as ‘Galloping Foxley’ which deals with a supposed reunion of school bully and victim crafted with certain knowledge of his subject matter. Roald Dahl: A Biography is to my mind significantly more than a by the numbers account of a writer, it is a meticulous study of the ‘Will To Power’, perhaps even a blueprint for bullshitting your way to the top. Which is not to say that Dahl did not possess talent, as it is blatantly obvious that he possessed more than one. However, the many accounts detailed in this biography make it clear that often when it came to storytelling on paper he provided diamonds in the rough, with the cutting and polishing being done by other more patient souls. Dahl in this biographical reality is presented as both victim and villain, his skewed perspective on the world and somewhat sadistic streak enabled him to often act with a lack of compassion in his steady rise beyond his peers. If you ever considered him enigmatic you really should read this book, it solves all of the mysteries with facts. I have read reviews in which the readers have found this book hard going, all I can say to that is, it may be a little dry, yet overall, it is quite fascinating and certainly recommended to anyone with more than a passing interest in biographies of storytellers.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ants

    I found myself wishing I were reading one of the books authored by Dahl instead of his biography. The book was an extremely slow read. I still wonder why I bothered to finish reading it. The book has too much information for an easy read. The book contains the largest collection of "red herrings" of anything I can remember reading. For a serious Dahl fan, the book may be considered nirvana. I am not a serious fan of the details of his life. However, I wouldn't mind reading more of his books. I found myself wishing I were reading one of the books authored by Dahl instead of his biography. The book was an extremely slow read. I still wonder why I bothered to finish reading it. The book has too much information for an easy read. The book contains the largest collection of "red herrings" of anything I can remember reading. For a serious Dahl fan, the book may be considered nirvana. I am not a serious fan of the details of his life. However, I wouldn't mind reading more of his books.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Leanne Britt

    a bit boring, I have to say. overall, I was disappointed.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Hobby

    At this length, a whole life goes past too quickly. There's rarely time to stop and have a full sense of what a particular season felt like in his life. It's also a biography which sometimes feels undercooked, assembling elements without enough integration or reflection. Still, it kept me reading and shows an ingenuity of research, piecing together Dahl's life without access to official sources through publishers' correspondence and interviews with some key people. At this length, a whole life goes past too quickly. There's rarely time to stop and have a full sense of what a particular season felt like in his life. It's also a biography which sometimes feels undercooked, assembling elements without enough integration or reflection. Still, it kept me reading and shows an ingenuity of research, piecing together Dahl's life without access to official sources through publishers' correspondence and interviews with some key people.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Who was Roald Dahl? I know him as the writer of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Being a Johnny 22_10 Depp's fan I appreciate the movie created by Johnny Depp in couple with Tim Burton charlie1 trailer01005 so badly and of course later I read most of Dahl's production. I didn't know anything of Dahl's private life, his character. Nothing. Reading this book cover91621-medium of the former editor of the Times Literary Supplement Jeremy Treglown: Roald Dahl a Biography published by Open Road Integra Who was Roald Dahl? I know him as the writer of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Being a Johnny 22_10 Depp's fan I appreciate the movie created by Johnny Depp in couple with Tim Burton charlie1 trailer01005 so badly and of course later I read most of Dahl's production. I didn't know anything of Dahl's private life, his character. Nothing. Reading this book cover91621-medium of the former editor of the Times Literary Supplement Jeremy Treglown: Roald Dahl a Biography published by Open Road Integrated Media every reader will open a fascinating window in Roald Dahl's life discovering myriads of anecdotes of an extraordinary, sometimes eccentric man. Treglown has been more than complete and exhaustive. He analyzed all Dahl's life with incredible cure, passion and love. Dahl was a man, Treglown writes with the desire to return to childhood maybe because during his childhood he lost a lot of components of his family. Not a premature writer at all, Dahl became successful after the 40s. Oh yes, he wrote most of the time, but real success would have knocked at his door only lately. His best and remarkable books: The Gremlins, George's Marvellous Medicine, The Witches, Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with a first movie in 1971 and another one wanted by the couple Tim Burton and Johnny Depp in most recent times, 2005. Roald Dahl was for sure a macho man. Very tall and handsome characteristics these ones of his dad. His parents were both Norwegians. Dahl didn't always appear at his best with people. A friend of Dahl revealed at Treglown that it depended which side he wanted to let you show. Born on Sept 13th 1916 his dad Harald died when he was still 4 years and other disgraces and lost interested his family so little Dahl started to being affectionate to his mom to him an icon of perfection if compared to all the rest of women of the world, classified by him "witches." Roald was called by his mother "The Apple". Being the little man of the house everyone after the departure of his dad waited a lot from him. What kind of kid was Dahl? A toddler fascinated by birds, butterflies, and highly influenced by the rich traditions of Northern European Fairy-Tales, and in particular by witches. Roald Dahl wasn't a great scholar although he loved reading. He was interested on authors with a certain masculinity in their writing as for example was Kipling. Can we say the author of the book asks, that Dahl had a distorted personality and reticence about schoolboy homosexuality? When in Repton Dahl assisted at various episodes and he didn't hesitate to report this behavior. Bullism was a reality of a certain importance but Roald Dahl, tall and strong couldn't risk to be bullied by his companions. Once at Repton Dahl felt melancholy for his mom, his dad. He also started at home a collection of birds' eggs. Contradictions in Dahl are numerous. If he complained for the behavior of some schoolmates, at the same time he didn't hesitate to put sadistic and cruel nicknames at his oldest friends reports Treglown. Young Dahl discovered a room that became his refugee and where he loved to spend his afternoon every Sunday. He also started to develop a big passion for photography and at school he played football, cricket. He was also a passionate of golf. Because his votes were not excellent it was excluded to him Cambridge or Oxford. He found a work in a refinery and he drove a truck while at the same time he worked at London in the Shell's office. Dahl found attraction for girls contemporaries like him but also, maybe because there weren't serious implications in this case, for married ladies. His desires of visiting with Shell Africa accomplished and once returned his positions close to the ones of the colonialism. Once published Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, some polemics involved the role of the Oompa-Loompa for this reason. An old friend of Dahl introduced the future writer of Charlie at the beauty of flowers and in particulars orchids. When the war started to be seriously real for express desires of Roald Dahl the family moved from Kent to Wales because Dahl thought maybe Kent could be bombarded. Once in war his mom always in his thoughts and when he had a bad accident injuring back and nose, reconstructed, her mom wrote him eight letters waiting anxiously for his answer. Once the war over he was introduced at the White House and Hollywood started to flirting with him. The reason The Gremlins, inspired at the last Second World War Conflict. Disney, apart Snow White, a big success of 1937 hadn't known big hits with Pinocchio and Fantasia, and they were searching for some novelties. The Gremlins became a Disney Picture book published by Random House. This first experience with a major like Disney meant to Dahl the beginning of his career as a writer although it was still unclear to him if he wanted to become a writer for children or adults. Alfred Knop read Taste in 1952 published by The New Yorker and searched for him. Dahl in contact with him, more than pleasant to share with him his material. This one started to be published in various magazines. Times passed by and in 1968 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory a big success for the author and as we know a first movie as told before realized in 1971. In 1980s Dahl reclaims paperback rights to six most important titles, starting a new collaboration with the Viking Penguin and the division of children's book created by Penguin, Puffin. Dahl has had a lot of women but the most important ones two. He knew Pat Neal when still young although their relationship weird enough. The two will divorce in 1983 when Dahl 66 and Neal 56. Dahl in the while met another woman Felicity with which she was living an affair from various time. Talking of competition and again relationship with other writers Roald Dahl didn't offer any kind of support at Salman Rushdie when he lived a terrible experience immediately after his book The satanic Verses released. This connection with Rushdie always cold. Roald Dahl started to experiencing a strong back pain and later it was discovered leukemia. The author said that he could have coped with death but he was sad because dying would have meant to live his family although according to him world wasn't all that great place where to live. Dahl died on November 23 1990. After his departure it was created a foundation helping literacy, neurology, hematology. In 1992 the foundation helped an illness still not very well-known: epilepsy. It was built a center, and donated a minibus for school with epileptic children. Roald Dahl is this and much more reading this informative, great, stunning book written by Jeremy Treglown and I am more than sure that the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will reserve a lot of surprises to all his fans around the world as this book did with me. Many thanks to netgalley.com and the publisher.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Elsbeth Kwant

    In the category unread biographies of favorite authors, Roald Dahl also loomed. I had read Boy and Solo, but it was a pleasure to read an external assessment of his life. Dahl always bugged me a bit - the cruel streak in his adult fiction, the stories of his children and on the other hand the most beautiful books for children... After reading the book, the conflict becomes clearer, though it is not resolved (loosing a child, a wife with a handicap, whom he aggressively retrains to a semblance of In the category unread biographies of favorite authors, Roald Dahl also loomed. I had read Boy and Solo, but it was a pleasure to read an external assessment of his life. Dahl always bugged me a bit - the cruel streak in his adult fiction, the stories of his children and on the other hand the most beautiful books for children... After reading the book, the conflict becomes clearer, though it is not resolved (loosing a child, a wife with a handicap, whom he aggressively retrains to a semblance of normality, his wish to be accepted and rich, the strong love of mother and sisters, the early death of his father - a family background which perhaps gave him a wrong sense of his own importance). "Like many succesful businessmen, he had little interest in abstract thought and was impatient with intellectuals. Genius on the other hand he revered. Next came courage, practicality and what he called sparkiness" "If there was one thing my father hated, it was to be demanded of. He liked to give, but he didn't like to be demanded of." The assessment of a friend puts it most concisely: "A man whose need for perfection was so extreme that I was very glad I was not his child or anyone close to him." Treglow concludes: If the perfectionism was exhausting, so was the conflict from which it arose. Dahl wanted not only others to be better than they were but himself, too.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sean Meriwether

    I had always been curious about Dahl, who had a reputation for being a spectacularly unpleasant person but remains a cherished author of children's literature. Treglown's objective biography outlines several possible causes for his abrasive personality, including being a spoiled boy in a family of girls, honing his duplicity as a spy in Washington, several personal tragedies, and chronic pain from a war injury which led to a lifetime of substance abuse. The biographer establishes the scene for s I had always been curious about Dahl, who had a reputation for being a spectacularly unpleasant person but remains a cherished author of children's literature. Treglown's objective biography outlines several possible causes for his abrasive personality, including being a spoiled boy in a family of girls, honing his duplicity as a spy in Washington, several personal tragedies, and chronic pain from a war injury which led to a lifetime of substance abuse. The biographer establishes the scene for several of his published works, particularly his adult fiction which I am unfamiliar with, as well as his acclaimed books for children. An interesting note is that several of his best loved books were shaped by good editors, who cautiously worked with the challenging author to give focus to his stories. This biography raises the question, should we separate the author from his work? In the case of Dahl, whose work continues to shock and delight legions of readers with dark and macabre themes that children and parents enjoy, it might be best to keep the messy biographical details of the author out of the picture.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stacey Blanton

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Even though I thought the book itself was well written and full of detailed information on Dahl's life, I gave this book only three stars because I simply did not like the man. He wrote some of the greatest children's books in history, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The BFG, but after reading this biography, I felt like he didn't appreciate the character's and stories he created as much as the rest of us did. He was bigoted, and opinionated, and worshiped money and fame. His marri Even though I thought the book itself was well written and full of detailed information on Dahl's life, I gave this book only three stars because I simply did not like the man. He wrote some of the greatest children's books in history, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The BFG, but after reading this biography, I felt like he didn't appreciate the character's and stories he created as much as the rest of us did. He was bigoted, and opinionated, and worshiped money and fame. His marriage to Patricia Neal seemed to be a way of advancing his place in the upper class, and made her life miserable in the process.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mina

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The book "Roald Dahl: A Biography" by Jeremy Treglown told the life of Roald Dahl in an interesting way. To me, the book was very slow-paced which is great for biographies such as this, I was a bit confused at the beginning where he started the biography of the letter Roald Dahl sent. Later, I caught back on, it was hard to follow along. I really liked how Treglown ended this biography about Dahl by visiting his grave. It gives the melancholy feeling that even though Roald Dahl passed away, he i The book "Roald Dahl: A Biography" by Jeremy Treglown told the life of Roald Dahl in an interesting way. To me, the book was very slow-paced which is great for biographies such as this, I was a bit confused at the beginning where he started the biography of the letter Roald Dahl sent. Later, I caught back on, it was hard to follow along. I really liked how Treglown ended this biography about Dahl by visiting his grave. It gives the melancholy feeling that even though Roald Dahl passed away, he is still here with us through the books he has written in his lifetime.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mahjong_kid

    I wanted to enjoy reading a book about Roald Dahl's life. Instead, I found this version to be stuffy and a bit hard to follow, especially at the beginning. I love a good biography, but this was not a pleasure to read. I wanted to enjoy reading a book about Roald Dahl's life. Instead, I found this version to be stuffy and a bit hard to follow, especially at the beginning. I love a good biography, but this was not a pleasure to read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Malinda

    So interesting, but it was a bit deflating. I liked him more as a person before reading this book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    David Potter

    Clever but not a nice man I suspect that Dahl would never want to be thought of as nice. The story is thorough and frank, which results in the discovery of a man who seems to have more vices than virtues. When he came near to his end the regretted not having given more attention to Christianity, but like so many, he left it too late. He would have found more in the Gospel than he expected.

  16. 4 out of 5

    J Earl

    Roald Dahl: A Biography by Jeremy Treglown is a masterful work about a gifted and often difficult writer. While this will likely burst some bubbles about what we think a children's writer must be like (as likable as the stories that children love, right?), it does not do a disservice to Dahl's life and contributions. Treglown shows us how Dahl's life and early aspirations helped to form the person he became. In doing so it neither demonizes nor condones the manner in which Dahl treated some peopl Roald Dahl: A Biography by Jeremy Treglown is a masterful work about a gifted and often difficult writer. While this will likely burst some bubbles about what we think a children's writer must be like (as likable as the stories that children love, right?), it does not do a disservice to Dahl's life and contributions. Treglown shows us how Dahl's life and early aspirations helped to form the person he became. In doing so it neither demonizes nor condones the manner in which Dahl treated some people, particularly editors. The background allows the reader to see him as a human being like the rest of us, with flaws and weaknesses as well as strength and a wonderful gift. I used the reading of this biography and the upcoming film The BFG as an opportunity to reread Dahl's book. With a better understanding of the author I found that it gave more nuance to my reading of The BFG. This biography will not affect a child's experience of any of his books but can reward an adult who might like to read them again with a new perspective. I would highly recommend this biography to anyone interested in children's literature and those who enjoy biographies of literary figures. While Dahl's at times difficult personality is certainly a big part of the story I felt by highlighting his life and goals Treglown avoided making this a negative biography. I have a new appreciation for Dahl the writer at the same time being thankful I didn't have to deal with him. Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marcie

    When I was in the second grade my class had a student teacher. I don't remember her name, or what she looked like, but I do remember that she read to us ever day after lunch. The first book she read to our class was The Witches by Roald Dahl. I remember being absolutely enthralled by the story. And as if The Witches was a gateway drug, I soon became addicted to his other stories. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, all of these books fill When I was in the second grade my class had a student teacher. I don't remember her name, or what she looked like, but I do remember that she read to us ever day after lunch. The first book she read to our class was The Witches by Roald Dahl. I remember being absolutely enthralled by the story. And as if The Witches was a gateway drug, I soon became addicted to his other stories. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, all of these books filled my childhood. As much as I read and love these books, I knew little about the author other than he's a talented writer. I didn't know he wrote for adults as well as children. I didn't know that I have been mispronouncing his name for most of my life. And I didn't know he had a very troublesome life. People that knew him either loved or hated him. Also, he might have invented the word: gremlins. Through Jeremy Treglown's book, Roald Dahl: A Biography I learned a lot about Dahl, from his early childhood to his death, his tumultuous marriage to his career highs and lows. Roald Dahl was an interesting man. I only now realize that I've read a small portion of his work. I plan of correcting this oversight and reading more of his work in 2017. While his children's books filled my childhood, I hope to fill my adulthood with his books meant for grownups. Read more at http://www.toreadornottoread.net/2016...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    I ended up liking this book more than I thought I would. At the beginning I was turned off by Treglown's initial claims that Dahl was a quarrelsome bully, liar, and plagiarist. These harsh criticisms of a favorite author forced me to read the first few chapters with an equally critical eye, much of the time feeling loyalty to Dahl. It didn't help that Treglown's first couple of chapters were a bit sloppy. When discussing Dahl's family tree there is a lot of pronoun confusion (is "he" Roald or Ro I ended up liking this book more than I thought I would. At the beginning I was turned off by Treglown's initial claims that Dahl was a quarrelsome bully, liar, and plagiarist. These harsh criticisms of a favorite author forced me to read the first few chapters with an equally critical eye, much of the time feeling loyalty to Dahl. It didn't help that Treglown's first couple of chapters were a bit sloppy. When discussing Dahl's family tree there is a lot of pronoun confusion (is "he" Roald or Roald's father?) and confusing jumps in time. By the middle of the book, this evens out and the narrative flows ahead. By the end, the biography was a more nuanced account of Dahl's life than I thought it would be. He is described as a flawed, but strong man, who faced much tragedy, and while his reactions may not have been agreeable, he had an impact on everyone around him. Knowing that many of his stories were "super-edited" by various editors didn't detract from them for me, because now knowing more about Dahl's character, it is clear that no matter where the plots turned, the stories were certainly infused with his own imagination.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Megz

    I am beginning to learn that if you read a biography of someone, you must be prepared to have them irrevocably changed in your eyes. I knew very little about Roald Dahl before reading this biography, but I knew he was instrumental in my love of reading and so I thought he must be a wonderful person. WELL. There is now actually very little about him I find endearing. Even the analysis of his writing has left me wondering about how it came to be that I loved his writing so much. Certainly he had an I am beginning to learn that if you read a biography of someone, you must be prepared to have them irrevocably changed in your eyes. I knew very little about Roald Dahl before reading this biography, but I knew he was instrumental in my love of reading and so I thought he must be a wonderful person. WELL. There is now actually very little about him I find endearing. Even the analysis of his writing has left me wondering about how it came to be that I loved his writing so much. Certainly he had an interesting and colourful life, but I can’t at all see him as likeable. As for the biography itself: I found the writing rather slow and drab, and it took me very long to finish reading. In addition, this is an updated version of a 1994 print, and as such I would expect the information to have been updated too – which it has not. Overall, a bit of a disappointing, if informative, read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    A bit slow, but very informative. Unfortunately, you may come away not liking Roald Dahl as much as a person, because his flaws are so thoroughly highlighted, including his willingness to change the facts of his own life to make them more entertaining. Thus, Dahl's own autobiographical works are suspect, after you've read Treglown's book. Certainly the varying versions of how he crashed a plane during World War II disagree wildly, but some of the details that Dahl added are the kind of things yo A bit slow, but very informative. Unfortunately, you may come away not liking Roald Dahl as much as a person, because his flaws are so thoroughly highlighted, including his willingness to change the facts of his own life to make them more entertaining. Thus, Dahl's own autobiographical works are suspect, after you've read Treglown's book. Certainly the varying versions of how he crashed a plane during World War II disagree wildly, but some of the details that Dahl added are the kind of things you say at a party to entertain, rather than serious history. Still, Dahl's ego and womanizing, as portrayed by Treglown, are disappointing. The insights into Dahl as a writer, an often struggling one, are the most interesting parts of the book, and what make it worth reading.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Charles Kerns

    You won't like Dahl as much after it's over. but he's not so bad as many artists, creatives, wunderfolk. I tend to like good humans, but buy books from arrogant, asshole geniuses (I just checked out this one at the library--didn't buy it). Anyway Dahl doesn't make the grade as 4-star genius, but certainly as a one-star double A (AH and Arrogant) human. Treglown isn't in the running. But Treglown gives you psychology, mother, women, war, adventures, petulance, money problems, women, books, moviesta You won't like Dahl as much after it's over. but he's not so bad as many artists, creatives, wunderfolk. I tend to like good humans, but buy books from arrogant, asshole geniuses (I just checked out this one at the library--didn't buy it). Anyway Dahl doesn't make the grade as 4-star genius, but certainly as a one-star double A (AH and Arrogant) human. Treglown isn't in the running. But Treglown gives you psychology, mother, women, war, adventures, petulance, money problems, women, books, moviestar wife, tragedy, more books, fights with publishers, more women, next tragedy, next wife, old curmudgeonness, and caps Dahl with a clever tombstone. All in order, understandable, nothing post-modern. Nothing literary. But adequate. Yes, adequate it is for this book. Adequate.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Davidson

    While Treglown does little to make Dahl likeable, I think it an honest telling of his life. I found the book interesting and engaging - even somewhat sympathetic. I had a preformed opinion of Dahl, based mostly on biographies of Patricia Neal and while this volume reinforced much of my negative feelings, it also presented a view into the difficult soul that made him more comprehensible. It does nothing to diminish my enjoyment of his children's books, Fantastic Mr. Fox and James and the Giant Pe While Treglown does little to make Dahl likeable, I think it an honest telling of his life. I found the book interesting and engaging - even somewhat sympathetic. I had a preformed opinion of Dahl, based mostly on biographies of Patricia Neal and while this volume reinforced much of my negative feelings, it also presented a view into the difficult soul that made him more comprehensible. It does nothing to diminish my enjoyment of his children's books, Fantastic Mr. Fox and James and the Giant Peach my favorites, but rather gives insight into the sometimes cruel nature of his characters.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    I have discovered another side to the "beloved children's book author". He was a cold, selfish, social climbing, braggart and outright lair. Still I am fascinated to read about the reality of his ascent to literary fame, especially in light of his frequent plagarisms of both his previous works and other authors. I have discovered another side to the "beloved children's book author". He was a cold, selfish, social climbing, braggart and outright lair. Still I am fascinated to read about the reality of his ascent to literary fame, especially in light of his frequent plagarisms of both his previous works and other authors.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ilana Waters

    Well-researched, fair, and very balanced view of a famous figure. I found many interesting details about the author's life I hadn't known about, such as the role of editors in changing many of his stories. I'm also glad Treglown chose not to deify Dahl, but instead portray him as the contradictory figure he often was. Well-researched, fair, and very balanced view of a famous figure. I found many interesting details about the author's life I hadn't known about, such as the role of editors in changing many of his stories. I'm also glad Treglown chose not to deify Dahl, but instead portray him as the contradictory figure he often was.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    This was fairly good book. It tells about the life of Roald Dahl by writing a biography about him. He did go through a lot of things, which makes it pretty interesting. I thought it was kind of cool to read about a well-known and famous author. I read this book to do a project on him, and it gave me a lot of information about him in the biography.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Todd Stockslager

    Decently good biography of Dahl, an often unlikable author of famous children's books, and a few less famous adult ones. Most famously, of course, are James and the Giant Peach and Willie Wonka (later Charlie) and the Chocolate Factory, both made into major Hollywood movies with loving attention to detail and no expenses spared. Dahl would have approved. Decently good biography of Dahl, an often unlikable author of famous children's books, and a few less famous adult ones. Most famously, of course, are James and the Giant Peach and Willie Wonka (later Charlie) and the Chocolate Factory, both made into major Hollywood movies with loving attention to detail and no expenses spared. Dahl would have approved.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    I'm very much glad that I never met Mr Dahl, because he certainly isn't a person I'd want to spend any time with after reading this biography. But of course I have spent time with him because I read and enjoyed his books. I wonder who the real Dahl was, what Treglown has here portrayed or the authors voice coming through his writing. I'm very much glad that I never met Mr Dahl, because he certainly isn't a person I'd want to spend any time with after reading this biography. But of course I have spent time with him because I read and enjoyed his books. I wonder who the real Dahl was, what Treglown has here portrayed or the authors voice coming through his writing.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Diana Coe

    An interesting look into the life of the famous children's author of James & Giant Peach, Witches, Matilda, Charlie & Chocolate factory. I definitely see where he got some of his characters from in his real life. Boy was the discipline harsh in those days. An interesting look into the life of the famous children's author of James & Giant Peach, Witches, Matilda, Charlie & Chocolate factory. I definitely see where he got some of his characters from in his real life. Boy was the discipline harsh in those days.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Leanne Britt

    didn't even finish before it was due back to the library...the author's clear distaste for his subject made it difficult to get through, or something. overall, I was disappointed and sort of wished that I never read any part of it. didn't even finish before it was due back to the library...the author's clear distaste for his subject made it difficult to get through, or something. overall, I was disappointed and sort of wished that I never read any part of it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Eileen Hall

    An in depth treatise on an extraordinary writer, his military life and the wonderful stories he wrote. I enjoy reading his stories even now. I was given a digital copy of this book by the publisher Open Road Media via Netgalley in return for an honest unbiased review.

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