Love from Boy

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What to expect

‘Dear Mama,
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

(P)2016 John Murray Press

Letters by Roald Dahl © 2016 Roald Dahl Nominee Ltd. Introduction, essays, selection and compilation copyright © 2016 Donald Sturrock.

Critics Review

  • 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

    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

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