We celebrated Christmas in Xavier’s and as my Christmas gift I got Roald Dahl’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. The book is a collection of seven stories written in Dahl’s brilliant simplicity. Each story is crisp; each word full of purpose. The style is conversational and this is something that Dahl cultivates throughout his stories.
Roald Dahl became an author more by chance than by choice. As he himself candidly states in this book, his early boarding school education in Weston-super-Mare was no different from the disciplined horrors of universal boarding schools. His grades did nothing to enthuse his writing. The teacher’s remarks typecast him as one with ‘limited ideas’ and it is no surprise that Dahl chose to forgo his mother’s offer of a university degree. Instead, he pampered his desire to see distant lands and took up a job with the Shell Oil Company in Africa. When the Second World War broke out, he was made a Special Reservist and tasked with capturing all escaping Germans. With time, he became a pilot and saw a action in Libya and later, in Greece.
Due to his injury, he was made a British Air Attache to liaison with the United States of America who had just entered the war. A chance encounter with C. S. Forester prompted Dahl to pen down a story about his war experiences. The rest, as they say, is history.
Dahl, despite his early success with non-fiction writing, was always interested in fiction. In this collection of bizarre stories, he serves up talking animals and mythical boys who fly. Of his many famous stories, the ‘Boy who talked with Animals’ is quite popular as much as is ‘The wonderful story of Henry Sugar’. Towards the end of the book, Dahl provides us with his first story, ‘A piece of Cake,’ which is a true account of an air crash while he was a pilot during WWII.
From those humble beginnings to becoming a highly acclaimed author, Dahl has continued to keep his audiences spellbound. This well known children’s writer has often been called ‘one of the most influential writers of our time’ and children the world over have grown up reading his books and novels, the most famous being ‘My Uncle Oswald.’ Dahl is well known for his books, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ which was adapted into a movie, and the Fantastic Mr. Fox.
The Wonderful story of Henry Sugar has been published by Penguin Books. All of 239 pages, this paperback is delightfully packaged. A definite recommend for anybody looking for a captivating story teller. The book retails at £5.49 for the Kindle version on Amazon and Rs. 383 on Flipkart.
- Roald Dahl fun at Cardiff Bay, September 2011, Cardiff (visitwales.co.uk)