Friday, 3 October 2014

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

This is a reread review. A many, many times reread. I really don't think I could count - the Roald Dahl books are part of the wallpaper of my childhood, and I reread books I loved over and over then.

My husband says that this and the Great Glass Elevator are the only two Roald Dahl books he's ever read, which slightly terrifies me. And must be rectified, immediately.

But this is the one that I think most people are likely to have read - although I have to tell you, when I bought a used copy last week and took it over to a coffee shop to read, the woman serving me looked at the book, and asked brightly "Is that a good book?"

Yes, I said. Yes, it is. You should read it.

But on to the actual book. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a wonderful story, full of whimsy and delight, but undercut with tones of poverty and despair, which makes the lightness of the story show up in greater detail, and makes the eventual ending even more pleasurable.

There are also strong disapproving undertones of "kids these days" with their gluttony and gum-chewing and tv-watching and being spoiled. None of the other children knows what it is like to want, and so Charlie is the only child who has any self-restraint.

Class is, thus, a major theme in the book, and poor downtrodden Charlie the only character with morals or ethics. Poor boy makes good. And that's heartwarming, although at times on this particular reread, when I knew I was going to review it, the awfulness of every other child and parent in the book struck me as a little heavyhanded. But that's the way fairytales go, I guess. There is only one who can pass the tests and display goodness and kindness.

But I am doing a disservice to the book's prose if I don't mention it here, strongly. The writing is wonderful, the songs amusing, the joy in creating drips through every line.

Thank you for so much of my childhood, Roald Dahl. Even if The Witches did scar me for life.

Read many, many times, but once as part of the BBC Big Read

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