On the 100th anniversary of his birth comes a revelatory collection of letters from the nation's favourite storyteller.
I am having a lovely time here. We play football every day here. The beds have no springs . . .'
So begins the first letter that a nine-year-old Roald Dahl penned to his mother, Sofie Magdalene, under the watchful eye of his boarding-school headmaster. For most of his life, Roald Dahl would continue to write weekly letters to his mother, chronicling his adventures, frustrations and opinions, from the delights of childhood to the excitements of flying as a World War II fighter pilot and the thrill of meeting top politicians and movie stars during his time as a diplomat and spy in Washington. And, unbeknown to Roald, his mother lovingly kept every single one of them.
Sofie was, in many ways, Roald's first reader. It was she who encouraged him to tell stories and nourished his desire to fabricate, exaggerate and entertain. Reading these letters, you can see Roald practicing his craft, developing the dark sense of humour and fantastical imagination that would later produce such timeless tales as The BFG, Matilda, Fantastic Mr Fox and The Witches.
The letters in Love from Boy are littered with jokes and madcap observations; sometimes serious, sometimes tender, and often outrageous. To eavesdrop on a son's letters to his mother is to witness Roald Dahl turning from a boy to a man, and finally becoming a writer.
Praise for Storyteller
'A truly magnificent biography . . . a masterly account' A N Wilson
'Superb . . . hugely readable' Sunday Telegraph
Roald Dahl was a spy, ace fighter-pilot, chocolate historian and medical inventor. He was also the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The BFG and many more brilliant stories. He remains the world's number one storyteller.
Donald Sturrock grew up in England and South America. After leaving university he joined the BBC, where he wrote and produced television documentaries, including one about Roald Dahl. Since leaving the corporation, he has translated plays and written five opera librettos. He is the author of critically acclaimed biography of Roald Dahl, Storyteller, which was longlisted for the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize 2011 and won the Spear's Book Award for Biography 2011.
A touching collection that throws new light on one of the greatest of all children's book writers . . . The sense of humour, often dark and subversive, that would come to delight the readers of Matilda, Fantastic Mr Fox and The Witches, dances through the pages of this wonderful book . . . Each chronological subdivision of this lovely book is illustrated with drawings, maps and photographs and prefaced by Donald Sturrock's exemplary editorial explanations. The letters become a delightfully original form of biography, as their author changes from child into student, into trainee fighter pilot in Iraq and Egypt, wartime daredevil in Greece and Palestine, diplomat in Washington, and unlikely British spy — Juliet Nicolson, Evening Standard
Love From Boy, in all its cunning unreliability, becomes more fascinating the more you think about it. It is a work of showmanship, written for someone to whom the author would always be a child. As the backdrop to one of the world's greatest children's writers, it's so wonderfully complicated you'd have thought even Dahl couldn't have made it up. Except that he did — Daily Telegraph
Sturrock's carefully chosen letters, complemented by a judicious selection of biographical and photographic material, testify to a bond between mother and son that is unbreakable, even in the face of boarding school, war and sexual jokes about Hitler — The Times, Book of the Week
Sturrock is right to claim that the letters to his mother show, in embryo, essential features of Dahl's art, such as his fantastical imagination and his sadistic sense of humour — Sunday Times
[An] entertaining and eye-opening collection . . . it is his younger self that is captured here - jaunty and anarchic, yet a recognisable forerunner of that more subtly anarchic, stooping, cardiganed figure who was the world-famous author, gazing out on the world from his garden shed with watery, mischievous eyes — Literary Review
[An] enjoyable selection from Dahl's devoted four-decade correspondence with his mother . . . an intriguing mixture of absolute intimacy, a total disregard for priggishness or decorum, fierce candour, and, in certain respects, a complete absence of it — Guardian
Sturrock's commentary on the letters is meticulous, thoughtful and kind. Anyone looking for revelations, kiss and tell or psychoanalytic exposure will be disappointed. It's a fascinating view of an extraordinary mid-20th century, upper-middle-class British boy and man talking to his extraordinary Norwegian mother — Michael Rosen, Observer
It offers an insight not only to Dahl's close relationship with his mother but also a glimpse into how he became one of the greatest children's authors of the 20th century — Independent
A fascinating collection — Mail on Sunday
Lovingly edited and deftly commented upon by his biographer Donald Sturrock — Spectator
[the letters] provide a fascinating snapshot of a developing mind and, in some senses, a literary sensibility — TLS
a touching and comic read — Daily Telegraph, Summer Reading
These letters, which continue into adulthood, show that Dahl's delight in the comically grotesque simply intensified over the years — The Times