A collection of letters from an endlessly fascinating writer and world traveler.
Using Dahl’s letters to his mother from age 8, when most British boys headed off to boarding school, until her death in 1967, British documentarian Sturrock (Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl, 2010) has picked just the right ones to show his character and his development into a fun-loving, globe-trotting adult. The only thing missing is some explanation of the schoolboy Briticisms—e.g., conkers, games of “fives” at school. In his letters to his mother, Dahl shared nearly everything, from his antics in school, good and bad, to his colonial life in Tanganyika, where life included a whole lot of drinking. The unfortunate loss of her letters to him causes Sturrock to assume and surmise her influence, but Dahl’s ability as an author is obvious in the tales he passes on to her. In 1940, he crashed his plane in the Libyan desert. Badly burned and with a severe concussion, he took months to convalesce in Alexandria. Rejecting an offer of repatriation to Britain, he healed enough to return to flying in Greece, although not for long. His headaches and blackouts finished his air career. In a clear case of knowing the right people, he was posted to Washington, D.C., as assistant air attaché in the British Embassy, where he met countless celebrities and even spent a weekend at Hyde Park. C.S. Forester asked him to write up a piece on the Royal Air Force, and when his publisher saw it, his career was launched. It was mostly smooth sailing after that, with articles in the Saturday Evening Post and a request from Walt Disney to come to California to write a book about the RAF. In addition to curating the letters, Sturrock provides a nice balance of context for each period.
A fun collection for lovers of literature and travel.