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Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 14, 2010
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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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Another reviewer asks, "Was it worthwhile to have Dahl knocked off his pedestal? Yes." I agree wholeheartedly. Meeting -- and truly coming to know -- someone as an adult that one previously knew only as a child is certainly always eye-opening pedestal-removing, and that is certainly the case with Dahl, whose general nastiness seeps through throughout this book. But it's not only nastiness that comes out; the man really seemed to possess character attributes on the extremes of many spectrums.
The bottom line is that it was fascinating to learn about how complex Dahl was, and I come away with a deeper respect, admiration for, and interest in his work. Sturrock did a wonderful job with this book, and I highly endorse it.