Going Solo

Roald Dahl happens to be one of those authors from my childhood who I never quite managed to outgrow. Then again, Dahl also happens to be one of those writers whose books are so wonderfully magical that they are loved by readers of all ages.

Personally, I’m of the mantra that anything well-written counts as literature, whoever the publishers decide to market the book towards, and boy can Dahl write. I own two copies of this book; one is a slim pocket-sized edition from the Popular Penguins series, and the other includes both parts of his memoir, so it’s actually Boy and Going Solo. Anyhow, the Penguin edition was so light that I carried it around with me and read it on the train etc etc., – because you can’t really travel with War and Peace, no matter how gripping it is – and I found this book so funny that I laughed out loud several times on the train. I’m pretty sure people gave me looks, but I was so wrapped up in what I was reading that I couldn’t have cared less.

The great thing about Going Solo is that we see a different side of Dahl; the man before Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Esio Trot, and George’s Marvellous Medicine. I laughed out loud because reading it was like an chance encounter with an old friend, but it wasn’t all Dahlesque kooky humour – many, many parts of this book are so incredibly poignant and thought provoking. All the more so because Dahl isn’t flippant or overly sober about it all, but he treats his life story in the same down-to-earth manner that gives his fiction such a whimsical, and yet believable touch. His experiences as a RAF pilot in the Second World War took up the majority of the book – and I did enjoy reading it – but I liked his observations of  British colonial ’empire-builders’ best.  Dahl’s life  really is a testament to the [by now, extremely] cliched saying that often truth can be stranger than fiction.

» This was my Used book for the 9 Books for 2009 project. For this particular category, we were asked to pick a pre-loved book that we owned. I chose Going Solo, by Roald Dahl – although I think I managed to ‘cheat’ once again by reading a new copy!

p.s. not at all related to Roald Dahl or his memoirs, but we had the strangest weather here in Sydney today! This morning, when I woke up, the everything in sight was shrouded in a blood-red haze – only it wasn’t a sunrise, or a bushfire – it was a huge duststorm! Facebook wallposts ran along the lines of: Apocalypse! Martians! Armageddon! It was like being momentarily trapped in a sephia photograph. Very surreal, and quite frightening at first.

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16 thoughts on “Going Solo

  1. I also loved Roald Dahl as a child, and remember loving the lurid gossipiness of “Boy”. I never read the sequel, however, and now I really want to! Who am I kidding: if I had all of my old Dahl’s here in Nashville, I’d read them all again in a heartbeat!

    1. I know, right? Me too! Only for some reason, I seem to have given mine away – the only ones I have left are Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda, and I think I have a copy of the Witches somewhere too…

      Ohhh, I loved Boy – particularly the candy store part! Boy is probably the more entertaining of the two, but I still enjoyed this, because it was written by Dahl.

      1. The candy store part is pretty much the only specific I can remember of Boy… maybe the next time I go to the used bookstore I should pop by the kiddie section and see if they have any Dahls I can pick up for cheap.

    1. Well, to be honest, it doesn’t really do to compare the two (Boy is better, hahah). But like I said, because it’s by Dahl, it was a great read – particularly b/c I hadn’t read anything by him in a while.

  2. I had only read James and the Giant Peach before, although my sister read a lot more by him. I’ll probably get copies for my boys, though, in time.

    1. Hmm I don’t think I ever read James and the Giant Peach! Are you saying you’ve never read Matilda, or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory :O
      They’re so wonderful, hahah! (OK, I’m biased b/c those two are my personal favourites, but really.. I’ll read anything by Dahl)

      1. That’s right, I haven’t, but my sister’s fave is also Matilda. It’s just that, when we got exposed to Dahl, I was already in my teens (she was the youngest, still a kid then) and by then I was so loving Stephen King he was almost all that I read during that time hahaha!

        1. Wow, if ever you buy some Roald Dahl for your kids, you should definitely read them too!! I never had a Stephen King phase (I was waaay too chicken to try), but I did have a stage of obsessive Lord of the Rings/Harry Potter reading. Oh, and Nancy Drew. And Sweet Valley. And the Baby-Sitters’ Club. I did so much trashy reading when I was a kid, hahah!

          1. I obsessively read The BSC as a kid! Like I think at one point I had about 100 of the books or something INSANE. But finally in my teen years I sold them all at a garage sale, so hopefully they’re still out there making young girls happy (and turning them into avid readers to boot).

  3. Those young girls would be girls like my sister! She bought most of ours at garage sales. I remember once some girl gave away whole boxes full of them at only 20c per box, hahah! But a few years ago, she mercilessly threw them out. Into the trash :O

    I think they’re dying out now, because I never see them in the shops (though Roald Dahl still seems to be doing pretty well).

  4. I’ve never read any Dahl books. Guess because UK kid’s books weren’t around as much in the US as now.

    Thanks for being part of 9 for ’09.

  5. I listened to the audio version of Going Solo while driving my kiddos to horse riding lessons. My kids laughed through the whole thing. The part with the snake was histerical. And, because they had some knowledge of the author’s life, they have enjoyed his fiction that much more. It’s so fun to watch them tell someone about Dahl’s adventures. He’s a favorite in our home.

    1. Mmm, yes, fiction becomes so fascinating when you know something about the writer’s life. I really enjoyed reading Virginia Woolf’s journals, and after reading ‘Going Solo’, I can definitely see where some of Dahl’s more eccentric characters may have from. But really, I think he just has this way of describing everything, and making it sound fabulously fun and magical :)

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