Love from Boy: Roald Dahl’s Letters to his Mother edited by Donald Sturrock
This year the Harrogate International Festival celebrates its 50th anniversary and Roald Dahl fans celebrate the 100th anniversary of their favourite author’s birth. What better way to celebrate than a new book made up of Dahl’s weekly letters to his mother, discovered having been lovingly kept following her death.
The letters start from a 9 year old Dahl when he was away at boarding school and continue throughout his life. The letters are written in the similar fantastically entertaining style of his famous children’s books and make you laugh out loud.
The book beautifully records Roald Dahl’s adventures, every day observations and frustrations. His descriptions of people, even from an early age, are superbly humorous and cruel. The letters record Dahl’s first weeks at boarding school, his career as a fighter pilot and thrills of meeting film stars and top politicians during his time as a diplomat and spy in America.
The fact that Dahl’s mother, Sofie, kept every single letter despite several house moves, her husband’s death and bringing up multiple children singlehandedly adds to the emotion felt by the reader. The letters are also written in such a personal way that keeps you gripped throughout and as the book sums up:
“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.”
The book’s note on spelling and punctuation is fascinating. Apparently Roald Dahl once described his childhood letters as “so badly written and badly spelled they will make you laugh.” This poor spelling continued right through his life, surely credit to his incredible talent as a storyteller that he was able to overcome this.
The letter form of the book makes it easy to dip in and out of. I read a lot of it with my 7 year old son, an avid Roald Dahl fan. We both loved it and now I’ve passed it on the grandma who is loving it too!
This book is a truly fascinating read and a must for Roald Dahl fans everywhere, whatever their age. It also reminds us of the lost art and longevity of letter writing in this age of technology.
Sally Togher is a senior associate in the Employment team at Raworths LLP.