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Review of "Boy"

By Roald Dahl
HarperCollins, 1984
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Oct 4th 2002

Originally released in 1984, Roald Dahls memoir Boy has been newly recorded as an unabridged audiobook read by the distinguished British actor Derek Jacobi.  Dahl recounts stories about his family and more from his youth, of his life at home and at school.  His father died when Dahl was young, and the family moved from Norway to Wales.  When he was seven years old, he started at Llandaff Cathedral School.  But he did not stay for long, because his mother removed him from the school after Dahl received a severe beating from the headmaster for a prank he thought up, which involved putting a dead mouse in a sweet (candy) jar at a sweet shop on the way to school.  He moved on St. Peters prep school in England, where he was a boarder which is to say that he lived there the whole time.  He became very homesick, and wrote home to his mother every week.  His mothers wisdom in taking him out of his first school is thrown in doubt as he tells of the violence he suffered from teachers beatings at his new school.  The school, reminiscent of The Austere Academy of Lemony Snicket, is populated by adults who seem to delight in the suffering of children.  Dahls life did not get much easier when, at the age of thirteen, he moved on to Repton, a prestigious school.  Here he, like all other boys, had to work as a fag for the older boys, which means that he had to both do menial chores for older boys and also suffer from their hazing rituals.  All this experience helps to explain the many horrible adults featured in his stories for children.  One of Dahls main consolations was the pleasure he took in sports, at which he excelled.

Many of Dahls stories of his youth are reminiscent of his tales for children, and Jacobi reads them wonderfully, bringing the different characters to life and ensuring that Dahl is a sympathetic narrator.  Dahl manages to show the reader the perspective of himself as a boy, both in his delight in simple pleasures such as the variety of sweets in the sweet shop, and in his horror at the cruelty of some of his teachers.  The book is a fine example of Dahls vigorous writing.  It shows how childhood experiences can leave a lasting mark on the rest of a persons life, but it is also a testament to the resiliency of children. 



·          Publishers web page with RealAudio excerpt

·          Offical Roald Dahl website


© 2002 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster communication between philosophers, mental health professionals, and the general public.

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