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

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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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: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,164,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By David Evans VINE VOICE on July 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I grew up hearing and reading the stories of Roald Dahl. From the novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to the short story The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar to the memoir Boy. I loved them all!

In this wonderful and compelling biography, Donald Sturrock rises to the challenge of writing a biography almost as interesting as the stories of its subject. Dahl apparently found biographies boring. "Why on earth would anyone choose to read an assemblage of detail, a catalogue of facts, when there was so much good fiction around as an alternative?" (p6). I loved many elements of this book; among my favorites are the following:

1. While Sturrock is clearly a friendly biographer, he paints no picture of a saint, demonstrating how much previous biographical work on Dahl is rose-colored, how Dahl was mercurial - by turns generous and kind and then rude and judgmental, sometimes (later in life) making unfortunate public statements.
2. Dahl was a storyteller through and through: many stories from his own memoirs was fictionalized. "I don't lie. I merely make the truth a little more interesting..." (p4)
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For a man who is essentially known as the genius who created such classic children literary figures as Charlie Bucket, Willy Wonka, Matilda, and The Fantastic Mr Fox, what I found most fascinating was what led up to these creations.(And to be honest none of them appear till the latter half of the quite dense book). He was a fighter pilot with the RAF, a spy for British intelligence, and a family man who had a long tumultuous marriage to the actress Patricia Neal. It's a lovely homage to a man who was as eccentric and original as the characters he created.
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Format: Hardcover
It came as no surprise to me that Roald Dahl, as described by first-time biographer Sturrock, comes across as a "difficult" character. Charming, generous, and convivial the great children's author could be, but also manipulative, cruel, and obstinate. Sturrock is eminently fair in presenting both sides of the story, but I think that it is appropriate that he lingers a bit in describing how Dahl first whipped his first wife Patricia Neal into shape following the actress' debilitating 1965 stroke, then gradually pulled away from her in favor of another woman, finally divorcing her. No incident in Dahl's life more vividly demonstrates the split personality of this complicated, frequently infuriating man.

The misanthropic bent of Dahl's stories for children and adults -- a tincture that also noticeably colors CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (1964), his best-loved novel -- appears to have had many sources. Along with the classic "bad time at a boarding school" (Repton, in his case), Dahl suffered a near-fatal plane crash as a young RAF pilot. In keeping with his tendency to embellish the truth of events in his life, Dahl's smash-up, which was entirely due to "pilot error," was gradually transubstantiated into the tale of an heroic lost dogfight with enemy planes. Dahl's opinion of human nature can't have been elevated by his subsequent service as an air attache and espionage agent in the United States, which gave him opportunities to both hobnob with the powerful (FDR, then Vice-President Henry Wallace) and bed-hop with willing older females. How firmly established Dahl's jaundiced view of life had become by the end of the war is symbolized by the fate of The Gremlins, the little plane-sabotaging critters that represented his highest pre-CHARLIE flight of whimsical fancy.
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Format: Hardcover
In this extensive biography of Roald Dahl, we learn about the man behind a collection of fantastic children's books. The book details his early work in the realm of adult fiction, his time as a war pilot and the plane accident that nearly killed him, through his two marriages and the birth of his children.The book also discusses his Norwegian heritage and how it influenced his life and writing. Roald experienced many tragedies in his life, losing one child to measles, and almost losing another to an accident. His cleverness and perseverance show through in his co-development of a neurological shunt based on his son's difficulties after the accident. He also had a quirky side, and delighted in mass-market chocolate, serving up a selection of bars in a red box for dessert at his dinner parties. He was not always an easy man to live with, and while he was instrumental in his wife's recovery from stroke (Patricia Neal, the actress, he struggled throughout their marriage to connect with her and love her fully. He loved art and music, but always felt outside of the literary circle. While lengthy, the story of his life was a fascinating journey that was well worth the time to explore.
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