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Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 14, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Only a special author can enter the imaginative realm of a child to write a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Yet this authorized biography, written by someone who knew Dahl and worked with the cooperation of the author's adult children and both wives--one of whom was film star Patricia Neal--covers the man and his reputation thoroughly while veering from deeper psychological readings of his work. This is not to say the book is superficial. Neal observed that her husband was a modern Pied Piper to children, and an element of the conjurer runs insightfully through this solid biography. Dahl considered himself a wanderer between his native Norway, the U.K., New York, and Hollywood, and a depressed one at that. He was drawn to the high life and celebrities such as Chaplin, Dorothy Lamour, and Robert Altman, and to expensive artwork and furnishings. Well covered are Dahl's English boarding-school years, his flying for the RAF during WWII; prickly relations with agents, editors, and publishers; the tragic lives of two of his children; and his up-and-down marriage to Neal. Yet because this biography is authorized, one comes away feeling that there is more to tell. 16 pages of b&w photos.
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Reviewers welcomed a new biography of Dahl on the twentieth anniversary of his death. Even though Sturrock's is not the first, his access to the Dahl family and their archives helps him to deliver a more thorough book on the children's author than has yet been attempted. Critics tended to agree that Sturrock has made great use of the new material, balancing the daffy, avuncular Dahl of the books with the very dark man he proved to be in real life. But some reviewers felt that the book's prose was only so-so and that Sturrock treads on eggshells when it comes to certain (more lurid) aspects of Dahl's life, suggesting Storyteller may not be the best read for those who are not already interested in Dahl or children's literature.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416550828
  • ASIN: B004Z4M244
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #264,250 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By wogan TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
`Storyteller' is about a man who thought invention was more interesting than reality and in making the truth more interesting. Roald Dahl's biography sums up all of his eccentricities, his proclivities and seemingly every aspect of Dahl's personality, most of all his characteristic of the feeling of an outsider. There are astute observations, such as, "his books are a kind of imaginative survival manual for children about how to deal with the adult world around them...freed from parental controls...where everything is possible."
Donald Sturrock had interviewed Dahl for a BBC film, been to his home and was given access to Dahl's papers after his death and interviews with his children and friends. His writing captures your interest, incorporating Dahl's past with his books and stories, so that even if you have not read them, they draw you into his world. There are many helpful footnotes, including those that explain Anglicism's such as conkers.
Dahl's cynicism, "life isn't's full of foul things and horrid people" is incorporated along with his extreme generosity, his love of his family and his failings from his birth to his death.

There was so much more to Dahl's life than what is generally known; but even that would make him worthy of note. He brought to life WWII's gremlins, `James and the Giant Peach', `Charley and the Chocolate Factory`, married Patricia Neal and guided her recovery after her stroke, was instrumental in developing a drainage tech valve to help save his son's life, which also helped thousands of other patients, he was a screenwriter for `You Only Live Twice' and also `Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'. Sturrock is successful in bringing out all of this and more; both the personal and professional aspects of Dahl's fascinating existence.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Hayley A. King on October 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I hold Roald Dahl personally responsible for my lifelong love affair with books and when I finally held this book in my hands, I was more than a little apprehensive. Did I really want to possibly knock my idol down from his pedestal?

Ultimately, yes.

This tome is a detailed look into the life of a man whose books still enthrall and delight generations of children, even with the creation of the magnificent Harry Potter. Sturrock's writing is remarkably balanced and he doesn't shy away from showing the darker side of Roald Dahl, which, at times, is hard to swallow. I had no idea of the life that Dahl led before he became a children's author. All that I know (pieced together from Boy and Going Solo) is that he was a fighter pilot during WWII and was stationed for some time in Africa. What I did not know is that he was assigned to Washington DC after he was injured during the war. I did not know that the concept of the Gremlins could be applied to him. I did not know that he had been married to Patricia Neal or that he had been friends with FDR or that he had briedly been Hemmingway's assistant to that he had known Ian Fleming. I could on (honestly- there's more) and it's astonishing how little I really knew about the man I have idolised. In spite of the fact that Roald Dahl comes across as a hard and difficult man, there are moments in Sturrock's writing when you truly feel the heart of who he was. His love affair with his 2nd wife Liccy is very touching and the influence that he had on the hearts and minds of his young fans is a beautiful thing.

My one complaint is that in spite of the endless details about his life in Washington and all the people that he knew, in contrast there was very little about his time as the world's most famous children's author.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Loves the View VINE VOICE on December 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Prior to reading this book the only thing I knew about Roald Dahl's personal life was that had married Patricia Neal. His fame as a children's author did not fit with this nor my image of him (from book jackets) of his aloof aristocratic bearing. This book describes the reality of his amazing life. Now I see how it all fit.

The book, in covering Dahl from his roots in England and Norway to his death in 1990, is excellent. Author, Donald Sturrock, assembled a lot of known and new material and put it together in a highly readable fashion. That these 500+ pages hold your attention, and mostly keep you page turning, is a real credit to this first time biographer.

Dahl, whose father died when he was 3, was sent to Repton School at the age of 14. It's described as the proverbial nightmare British boarding school, where hazing from peers equals the sadism of the teachers and administrators. This school completed Dahl's formal education, and probably his emotional development as well.

World War II arrived for Britain while Dahl was working in Africa. He joined the RAF which was formative in that he received pilots training, was in aerial combat and had a debilitating accident. This led to a desk job in the British Embassy in Washington DC. As a war hero with a successful free lanced story, he was catapulted into the highest ranks of politics and entertainment. Not yet 30 years old and he is dining with FDR, playing tennis with the vice-president, boxing with Hemingway and dating Clair Boothe Luce. We don't know how he achieved such extraordinary access, but we do know that he was, like Ian Flemming, a spy. It helped that he was handsome and had affairs with rich and beautiful women; He filed reports on some.
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